March Madness has struck our household.
Except for during my college years, I never was much of a basketball fan. Football is the sport I love. My husband, however, is a major
fan. He can tell you every
tidbit of trivia about every team since 1900…well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration,
but not by much. At first his loyalty was a bit tricky…I’m from University
of Kansas Missouri
and everyone in my family are Missouri
fans. The rivalry between MU and KU is legendary. Still, it’s hard not to get
caught up in my husband’s basketball fever, so I've gone over to the “dark
side.” Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
More than basketball, to me March is maple season. In late February in
New England, when the temperatures warm
slightly, the sap from sugar maples starts to “run.” Now is the time to look
for the steam rising up from the sugar houses as local farmers boil sap into
delicious maple syrup.
When sap comes out of the sugar maple tree it looks and tastes like slightly sweet water. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! In the sugar house the sap is boiled in a contraption called an evaporator traditionally heated by a wood fire, though some producers have gone to cleaner burning oil. When the sap reaches 219 degrees then you know you’re making maple syrup.
This weekend is Maple Weekend in my former home state of
Hampshire. All of the maple producers invite the
public to come watch the process. Many serve pancakes covered in their delicious amber creation, or they make sugar on snow; maple candy made on the snow.
(All of the images except for the popcorn are from the New Hampshire Maple Producers’ Association.)
So to honor both maple season and March Madness I made yummy maple popcorn, which is caramel corn made with maple syrup. I had some leftover peanuts to add, but you can add your favorite type of nut—or none at all. Just be sure to use only
REAL maple syrup, made only from sugar
maple sap and nothing else. (Watch out for those syrups labeled “natural” maple
syrup. They are made with corn syrup and maple flavoring.)
Butter for bowl and spoon
10 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup nuts
Butter the inside of a large bowl, plus a large mixing spoon. Set aside. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside.
Pour the maple syrup into a deep-sided, heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Over medium-high heat, bring the syrup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to boil until it reaches 236 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Place the popcorn and nuts into the buttered bowl. Slowly pour the hot maple syrup over the top of the popcorn/nuts and quickly stir until all of the popcorn is coated with the syrup.
Pour the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Allow the popcorn to cool and set. Enjoy, or store in an airtight container.