I grew up in Western New York so the making of maple syrup was part of my heritage. We often visited some of the local farms during the spring to see how real maple syrup was made. Just the other day my youngest grandson commented that he remembered going to a farm and being able to stir his own syrup into a sweet treat. They let the children make maple cream.
All of the children remember the maple sugar candy and the maple cotton candy. The day the children and I visited the farms was a mild spring day. This year it has been anything but mild and sunny. There have been some sap runs, but not nearly as many as the producers would like.
We have two producers nearby. When the smoke is rising from the sheds, we know the syrup making process is in progress. The first time I tasted real maple syrup I did not like it. I was used to the manufactured stuff that my grandmother used. Times have changed. Now I relish the sweet maple flavor of the real stuff. I even like maple syrup on ice cream. I can remember getting a maple milkshake at the Pennsylvania Farm Show the year I went.
The local seniors recently took a trip to the Sprague Maple Farms in Portville. We were in luck because the day we went the sap was running. The operation was in full gear. It is a trek up the hill to see the maple operation, but it is neat to see.
They also operate a full menu restaurant. Everyone ordered from the menu. My theory was that since we were visiting a maple farm we ought to enjoy the product that they make. I ordered pancakes with raw fries, eggs and maple sausage. Everything was delicious. The portions were more than adequate. I ate a lot but could not get through the whole plate. The maple syrup tasted wonderful on my buckwheat pancakes.
Since it was just before Easter I bought some maple sugar candy to bring home to the family. I made some bags of treats for all of them. It also included some cheese from the Cuba Cheese Factory that we also visited that day.
Pancakes are very popular around this area each spring. Many organizations sponsor pancake breakfasts and pancake suppers. The churches and fire departments that participate are good about checking with the others to be sure no two are scheduled on the same day. I got a call from one of the fire departments a couple months ago to find out when our church was having the annual pancake supper.
For more years that I can remember the Akeley Methodist Church has hosted a pancake supper in the spring. We are a very small church, but everyone pitches in to work. A group gathers on Friday evening to set up the social hall and begin cooking the sausage. The day of the event people show up early to start the coffee pots and cook the scrambled eggs. Close to the time that the event begins, people bring in homemade baked goods for the Sunday school bake sale. By 4:30 p.m. everything is ready to go. The men at the grill pour out the pancake batter, and pancakes are served.
This annual ritual is as much about socialization as it is about eating. People come from far and near to enjoy the pancakes at the little church on the bend in Akeley, Pa. Some people even provide us with their addresses so we can send postcards once the event is scheduled.
The event is officially sponsored by the United Methodist Women's group, but everyone works. The staff includes the Sunday school children as well as the more mature ladies who do such a good job of organizing the event.
My grandchildren look forward to working at the Pancake Supper. As soon as they were responsible we involved them. Last year my granddaughter brought a friend, and she had a wonderful time working, too. They mixed the pancakes under the able supervision of one of the ladies.
The workers eat after the last customer is served. They never know what will be left for them to eat. There are always pancakes and real maple syrup. The syrup is provided by Angove's who are just up the road from the church.
It is hard to believe it is spring. The ground at my home has been snow-covered the last two mornings. Old man winter just does not seem to want to give up.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.