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Sugar season meets snack time

Pop up a mineral-rich reward for patience and hard work

| 24 Feb 2023 | 10:54

In New York’s maple-sugaring region, early spring brings the flow of sap, and my family has blissfully indulged in this gift. Before they moved to the country, they had an ancient maple (Acer) in their tiny city “yard,” its deeply grooved trunk wrapped around the fence. One year they tapped the tree, and to their delight, began receiving buckets of sap. When they’d had their fill of the sweet “maple water,” they boiled it down into just enough syrup for two pancake Sundays, but my, were those memorable pancakes! It takes 40 gallons of sap to boil down to one gallon of the liquid gold that is maple syrup. It’s a mineral-rich gift that reveals itself with the patient respect and hard work of the sugar makers, and for this reason, the final sap boils are often a festive occasion. Whether you live near a sugaring region or not, you can appreciate maple’s gift with this simple yet special popcorn. The caramel flavors of maple meld with the warming qualities of cinnamon to awaken our now sluggish digestive systems and soothe us through the cold days of the transition season.

Maple-Cinnamon Buttered Popcorn
Yield: 4 servings

3 Tbsp unsalted butter (or coconut oil to make it vegan)
1⁄2 cup popcorn kernels
1 Tbsp maple syrup1 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt

In a large pot, melt 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of the popcorn kernels, cover the pot, and wait 3 to 5 minutes until you hear the first pop. Remove the pot from the heat and add the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover and shake the pan, coating the kernels evenly with the butter. Return the pot to medium heat. When the kernels begin to pop, crack the lid, allowing steam to escape, and cook, shaking every so often, for about 5 minutes. Listen to the popcorn ding off the lid as it “tries to escape.” When the pops become sporadic, remove from the heat. Immediately add the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter and the maple syrup, stirring until the butter is melted and distributed evenly. Evenly sprinkle with the cinnamon and salt, toss to coat evenly, and transfer to a serving bowl.

Store leftovers in an airtight container or bag for up to three days.

Excerpted from Seasonal Family Almanac: Recipes, Rituals, and Crafts to Embrace the Magic of the Year by Emma Frisch and Jana Blankenship. Published by PA Press, an imprint of Chronicle Books. Copyright 2023 by Emma Frisch and Jana Blankenship.