I'm a little disappointed, but at the same time, this has been a year without winter.
It doesn't feel right to celebrate the spring thaw when the winter hasn't frozen your soul stiff.
There are practical reasons as well to skipping the sugaring season; among the practical issues are that the sap barrel can't be kept cold with a blanket of snow and that we've already missed the early part of the run, which produces the lightest and prettiest syrup.
Instead of boiling sap, I tried my hand at boiling down tomato puree with some sugar, vinegar and spices to make a quick tomato ketchup. I adapted a summer grilling recipe to a "late winter/early spring/I don't know what season it is, but the chickens are happy to be outside" recipe boiled down on the wood stove. I'm calling this the heart of redness sauce, because the color turns out to be an impossibly deep red - primal and intoxicating like Joseph Conrad's novel.
|Into the heart of redness - so tasty|
The Heart of Redness Sauce - a winter riff on "Hot Tomato" Jam from James McNair
1 pint tomato puree (or unseasoned tomato sauce)
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 dashes of Sriracha hot sauce (a.k.a. Rooster Sauce)
Mix up all the ingredients in a medium or large skillet. Stick this on the top of the woodstove, or on medium-high heat on your stovetop. Let it boil down 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get a thick sauce that mounds up on your spoon. (Keep an eye on this, because it really depends on how thick your tomato puree or sauce is.) Take it off the heat and let it cool down to a manageable temperature for eating.
For Sunday dinner, we had lamb burgers with the heart of redness sauce, baked sweet potato fries and Empire apples. The Dark Days Challenge is starting to get a little more ingrained in my cooking. We pulled out some ground lamb from the freezer and I searched for a lamb burger recipe that would not require an additional trip to the grocery store.
Citing my local sources -
Ground lamb - Yankee Farmer's Market
Garlic and sweet potatoes - Spring Ledge Farm
Tomato puree - my garden and Musterfield Farm
Empire apples - Cardigan Mountain Orchard