Posts Tagged ‘Maple Month’

A Family Affair: Davenport Maple Farm

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
This photo was taken three years ago, but the ambiance hasn’t changed much! (Courtesy of Davenport Maple Farm)

March is Massachusetts Maple Month, and an annual pilgrimage for many syrup lovers is now underway. Nothing beats a visit to a sugarhouse restaurant at this time of year to watch sap being boiled and consume food made with fresh, hot syrup.

At Davenport Maple Farm, high on Tower Road in Shelburne, Norman Davenport and his wife Lisa are boiling sap furiously in their evaporator and greeting crowds at their restaurant, which is open only on weekends during maple season. The farm has been in the Davenport family for generations.

“We’re actually approaching our centennial,” Lisa Davenport told me recently. “Norman’s great grandfather Walter Davenport purchased the farm in 1913. There was always sugaring going on here prior to that. And they’ve always had cows here.”

She noted that the restaurant, which opened in 1990, was the brainchild of her husband’s father. At that point the family’s old sugarhouse was in need of substantial repairs, and Russell Davenport and his wife Martha decided to expand it into to a restaurant.

Two decades later the senior Davenports can still be found at the restaurant during maple season. Russ Davenport helps Norman run the evaporator and chats with customers, and Martha Davenport runs the cash register. Lisa and Norm’s daughter Maegan runs the kitchen while daughter Daina serves as head waitress.

“Norm’s sister Barbara Goodchild comes up and helps, too. It’s really a family affair,” said Lisa. “I supervise everybody. I do all the ordering and the payroll, I go out and do the shopping, and I fill in for somebody when they stop working.”

She admitted that while she enjoys maple season she can also find the family’s restaurant weekends intense.

“It’s a short season, six weeks long, but you’ve got a couple of weeks beforehand when you’re getting ready for it. There are some all-nighters. If the sap’s really running, you’ve got to keep boiling.”

She observed that she sometimes sets her cell phone to wake her up in the morning only to hear it ring in her pocket at the end of a long night at the evaporator.

“And we still have the cows to milk and regular chores to do,” she added. “It’s a long schedule, but it’s fun. You’re right in the middle of it all the time.”

Most visitors to the restaurant order breakfast, which is served all day, although the Davenports also offer lunch items. These include hamburgers made from their own beef, corn chowder, maple baked beans, and grilled cheese.

Asked to sum up the farm’s cuisine, Lisa Davenport thought for a minute. “Good home cooking. We don’t use any mixes; it’s all made from scratch. I bake all the bread.”

At home the Davenports use maple syrup in a variety of dishes. “My kids didn’t like spaghetti sauce or the tomato sauces,” Lisa told me. “They’d just have buttered pasta with maple syrup drizzled over it.” I am NOT telling my nephew Michael about this practice!

She also tops her tuna-noodle casserole with maple syrup and crackers. And she recommends a drop or two of syrup on scrambled eggs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for the tuna casserole or even the eggs. Nevertheless, I did enjoy making and eating the Finnish pancakes that are the restaurant’s most popular breakfast offering.

The recipe below served four of my family members, although Lisa explained that she doubles it for four. Portions are generous at Davenport’s!

The pancake tastes a bit like a rich custard as it doesn’t use a lot of flour.

Davenport Farm Finnish Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups fresh milk
4 large eggs
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter and place it in an 8-by-8-inch pan or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Mix the milk and the eggs lightly with a beater; then add the sugar, the salt, and the flour. Pour the mixed batter over the melted butter and bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Serves 4.

Photo by Michael Weisblat, who helped eat!

Maple Butterscotch Sauce

Monday, March 28th, 2011

 
I’m a little late to the party celebrating Massachusetts Maple Month—but at least I can offer a small contribution.
 
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Sometimes they’re also the only ones for which a home cook has the time and the ingredients.
 
I originally hoped to share my friend Pat’s prize-winning recipe for maple lace cookies. Our extended family was coming to dinner Saturday evening, and I was all set to make these wafers—or so I thought.
 
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the key ingredient in my pantry: maple sugar!!
 
So I punted and made a maple-based sauce for ice cream instead.
 
Very rich and very sweet, it works beautifully poured in small quantities over ice cream. Toasted walnuts or pecans make a festive garnish. 

As for the cookies, well, I can make them NEXT March……… 

My nephew Michael had no trouble finishing his maple buttersotch sundae.

 
The Sauce
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
 
Instructions:
 
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat melt the butter, stirring constantly. Add the brown sugar and stir until it melts. Continue to stir or whisk as the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
 
Whisk in the maple syrup. The mixture will look a little weird at first, but it will come together eventually! Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil it (still whisking!) until it coats a spoon. This took about 3 minutes on my weird electric stove.
 
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream. Let the sauce cool slightly before serving it with ice cream. (You may also let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. At that point warm it slightly in the microwave.) 

Makes just over 1-1/2 cups.