This is an excerpt from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection , by Jessica Prentice.
The first peoples to harvest maple sap were the indigenous peoples of the northern woodlands, where the sugar maple, Acer saccharum, is both native and prodigious. For many cultures—the Anishnabeg (or Ojibway or Chippewa), Abenaki, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquody, Penobscot, Potawatomi, and Iroquois, to name a few—tapping maple trees was an annual ritual. The sap is watery and clear; Native peoples drank it as a spring tonic beverage and used it to make vinegar. European colonists often called it maple water. An Iroquois legend explains how the secret of maple sugaring was discovered. A chief named Woksis threw his tomahawk into a tree before leaving on a hunt. As the weather warmed, the sap began to flow from the gash into a container that happened to be sitting by the tree. The woman of the house found the container full of liquid, assumed her thoughtful husband had already been to the stream to fetch it full of water, and used it to boil the evening’s meat. As the meat stewed, the sap cooked down into syrup, and thus the secret of maple sugaring was revealed.
Maple-vanilla Panna Cruda
- 1 cup raw cream or crème fraîche
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 tablespoon Bernard Jensen’s gelatin see page 315) or 2 teaspoons Knox gelatin
- Tiny pinch of salt
- ¼ cup maple syrup, or to taste (this mount may be too sweet for some palates—start with 2 tablespoons and then taste)
1. Put the cream or crème fraîche into a bowl with the vanilla extract.
2. In a very small pan, heat the water until almost boiling. Add the gelatin and tiny pinch of salt.
3. Simmer the water for a minute or so until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
4. Stir the gelatin-water mixture into the cream.
5. Add the maple syrup to the cream mixture, and taste it. You want it sweet but not too sweet.
6. Pour into three or four wineglasses, ice cream dishes, or little parfait cups. Place in the freezer for about half an hour or until just gelled. Transfer to the fridge if you’re not ready to eat. Alternatively, just put the dishes straight into the fridge and allow a couple of hours for the mixture to gel.
7. Serve as is, or with fresh seasonal berries or other fruit.