For many home cooks maple syrup is a substitute in recipes for processed sugar in dishes ranging from stir-fried meals to baked goods.
The maple syrup options on store shelves are often made with corn syrup and artificial sweetners. For the real deal, head to Bellbrook this weekend for the 35th annual Bellbrook Sugar Maple Festival, Friday through Sunday.
Bline Farms will sell about 80 gallons of syrup over the weekend, which translates to roughly 3,200 gallons of sap collected. Sap is mostly water, and after it is boiled down in a method that has been passed on for centuries, it yields the sweet, brown syrup that completes pancakes and waffles alike and can sweeten up other recipes that call for it.
It’s a multipronged process to make pure maple syrup, says Jeffrey Bline of Bline Farms, which has been providing organic, locally raised maple to the festival for five years.
“The process for making maple syrup requires the help of many people. We tap the trees in our woods by drilling a 1.5 inch hole into the trees and inserting a metal tap at a slight upward angle. This angle allows the sap to drip into a collection bucket attached to the tap. Daily in February and March we collect the sap and filter it into large tanks. Once we have collected a significant amount of sap (typically 500 gallons) we transport it to our good friends the Dill family’s sugar camp near Urbana, where they have the equipment necessary to boil the sap until it becomes syrup. The Dills run the largest sugar camp in Ohio and tap up to 6,000 tress,” says Bline.
Bline says his syrup stands out from others due to the lack of preservatives. He says part of his passion for his product stems from the health benefits, including antioxidants, it provides.
“Our biggest challenge would have to be finding the time to collect all the sap, since the maple is a hobby for us and we have other full-time commitments. That being said, we enjoy the collection, and love being outside and working in the woods together as a family,” said Bline, whose daughters Rebekah, 20, and Molly, 9, are making maple cookies to sell over the weekend. “The people (at the festival) are wonderful, and we love sharing our product with them. I enjoy sharing my maple knowledge with people and hearing the next year how they experimented and put that knowledge to use by tapping their own tree.”
JEFF BLINE’S MAPLE SMOOTHIES
1 cup blueberries or strawberries
1/2 cup cranberry juice
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
2 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or to taste)
1 cup water (or enough to make mix fluid)
Mix in blender until desired consistency is reached.
JOAN BLINE’S FAVORITE MAPLE USES
Glaze for chicken and pork
Ice Cream topping
Sweetener for acorn squash and sweet potato recipes
HOW TO GO
What: The 35th annual Bellbrook Sugar Maple Festival
When: 6-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Downtown Bellbrook, Ohio 725 between Interstate 675 and U.S. 42
Expected attendance: 30,000
Cost for Bline Farms maple syrup: (In plastic) $20 quart and $12 pint; (In glass) $10 for 12 ounces and $8 for 8 ounces
More info: www.sugarmaplefestival.com or call (937) 848-4930