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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sappy time of year with maple syrup festivals

   One-Tank Trip for March 10/12

   (c) By Jim Fox

   It’s time to get sappy again.
   Maple syrup madness is in full swing across Southern Ontario, with the earliest tapping for sap in history thanks to Mother Nature.
   Enjoy a sweet treat down on the farm in the Woodstock area or take in maple syrup festivals in Elmira, London and other locales.
Eric Boyar (left), owner/chef at Six Thirty Nine, and Michael Davies, executive chef at the Elm Hurst Inn and Spa, with Mary Jakeman picking up maple syrup for their special March menus. (Oxford Tourism)
How sweet it is
   See how the Jakeman family has perfected “sugaring off” for four generations over 136 years on the maple farm near Woodstock.
   With the warmer days, the first tree tapping was Feb. 3, the earliest since Bob and Mary Jakeman’s great grandparents, George and Betsy Anne, settled in Oxford County in 1876.
   Cold nights and warm days are needed to produce this Canadian natural resource sold around the world.
   The Jakeman’s farm has more than 1,000 taps for sap to flow through a plastic pipeline to a sugar shanty where it is boiled in a steam evaporator to make syrup.
Checking out a pail collecting sap from a maple tree at Jakeman’s Maple Syrup Farm. (Handout – Oxford Tourism)
Checking out a pail collecting sap from a maple tree at Jakeman’s Maple Syrup Farm. (Oxford Tourism)
   Native Canadians taught the original Jakeman’s how to create this sweet, sticky concoction.
   They collected sap from maple trees in the early spring and boiled it down in an iron kettle over an open wood fire until it was a syrupy golden brown.
   Oxford County 4-H clubs offer pancake breakfasts at the Jakeman’ on Saturday and Sunday throughout March, as well as March 14 and April 1, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
   Come and enjoy “huge, fluffy pancakes, breakfast sausage, beverages, maple baked beans and our award winning maple syrup (from $3)”, said Mary Jakeman.
   Other activities include a walk through the Trillium Nature Preserve, horse -drawn wagon rides and viewing the farm’s antiques.
   An added tasty treat is a “Maple Menu” at several Oxford County restaurants -- the Elm Hurst Inn, the Manse, Ody’s, Quehl’s and Six Thirty Nine – in association with Jakeman’s this month.
   Visitors can “explore not only the countryside but our talented chefs and farmers,” said Oxford’s tourism specialist, Cathy Bingham.
   Some creations are spiced sweet potato soup with maple cured bacon and creme fraiche, artisan mixed greens with glazed maple syrup, and maple and teriyaki glazed chicken breast.
   Desserts include ice cream with Jakeman’s maple syrup Icewine sauce.
   For information and driving directions to Jakeman’s (454414 Trillium Line, Beachville): www.themaplestore.com; (519) 539-1366. Tourism Oxford: www.tourismoxford.ca; 1-866-801-7368

   Come and get it – early
   Arrive early and come hungry to Elmira, north of Kitchener-Waterloo, on March 31 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the “largest maple syrup festival in the world.”
A pancake-flipping contest is a highlight at the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.
   Expect up to about 80,000 people that day when some 15,000 servings of flapjacks washed down by 750 litres of syrup will be devoured.
   There are trips to the sugar bush, a pancake-flipping contest, dog show, petting zoo and sales of toys, quilts, crafts, antiques and collectibles, plus lots of great food.
   Children can enjoy midway rides, inflatables, pony rides and a performance by Erick Traplin at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
   It's free to attend (with pancakes $4 for a single serving and $5 for a double along with small fees for events). www.elmiramaplesyrup.com; 1-877-969-0094

   More sappy fun
   Learn what’s old and new about producing maple syrup at the Kinsmen Fanshawe Sugar Bush in London.
   There’s a maple syrup tour, starting with the methods used by the natives to the modern-day evaporator, as well as hayrides, demonstrations, displays and "mouth-watering pancakes (and sausages) drenched in warm maple syrup.”
The traditional pioneer’s method of making syrup by boiling sap in a kettle is displayed at Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton, the site of another syrup fest.
   The Kinsmen Club of Greater London has been working the property east of the Fanshawe Conservation Area since 1972, started the tours in 1997 and now produces enough syrup to sell to the public.
   The bush is open weekends through March 25 and daily during next week’s school break from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   Admission is $3; $2, for children 12 and younger; $10 maximum per car. It’s at 21201-C Lakeside Drive, Thorndale (follow the signs east from Huron Street and Clarke Road). www.kinsmenfanshawesugarbush.com; (519) 461-1073

   If you go:
   To find out about other festivals and sappy facts from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association: www.ontariomaple.com


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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