Friday, May 11, 2007

Dog Days... well not quite.

This week, we took road trips in search of maple products. The scarcity of all things maple in Westchester County was surprising. I had totally taken for granted the bounty of New England. Once we started looking for maple sugar and real maple flavor/extract I noticed the absence of the usual supply of maple creams and candies, those small, gritty, brown, leaf shaped treats. The strange pale tan squares of maple flavored fudge sealed tightly under plastic wrap perched at the quickie mart check out next to the grimy leave a penny tray aren't so common around here either. That may not be a bad thing.

You also don't see different grades of maple syrup. Yes, in NE, you can not only get a jug of the Real Stuff for 5x the price of Mrs. Butterworth's, you have different grades to tempt you. If I remember from the maple sugaring farm tour (that's a pre-req. for living in the NE states), I think the grade is based on the color of the syrup, and flavor. All that is determined by the temperature and when the trees are tapped: mid-season maple is different than late season, and some seasons produce more of one grade than another. I think the winter frost or thaw has something to do with it, too. I'm sure we've heard reports about the perils of global warming for the maple sugar farmers. Won't somebody think of the children!!? (Simpsons reference for a few of you.)

Well, we found our maple sugar relatively easily. It took a trip to the Whole Foods in White Plains, but that's hardly a sacrifice! What a great store.

The maple flavor was another story. Imitation maple extract is in plentiful supply at the local A&P, but the real stuff wasn't available there, or at Stop n Shop, ShopRite, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Mrs. Green's, a natural/health foods store near Robb in the city, through Dean & Deluca's website, or Penzey's... it was beginning to look grim.

Robb was determined, to say the least.
He found a couple of natural foods markets in the next county to the north- maybe it was two counties away. So we traveled to Cold Spring in search of a place called Maison Glass and sadly found a for rent sign in the store front. On to Beacon, NY and to a very large market called Beacon Natural Foods where they had the much sought maple flavor. I'm not sure we even noticed the price of the tiny little bottle. I didn't. I'm sure Kevin is not surprised at that.

Along the way we considered the differences between lilac and wisteria and enjoyed the landscape of spring blooms on the backdrop of just barely green trees and steely gray rock. The weather was clear and hot, my arm even got a little pink hanging out the passenger window. It was really a beautiful day, which I hope helped Robb. Our road trip was a bit of a distraction for him. His beloved dog Maggie was having some dental work done- doesn't that sound funny to say about a dog? Like maybe she was getting veneers or whitening! However, it was no laughing matter, she had a tooth go bad and was in a bit of discomfort. For those of you who are pet people, you know the concern whenever your pooch/kitty is in distress and especially when general anesthetic is involved. She's a trooper and came home groggy, but ok.

To satisfy the weekly baking habit that I've developed- no, I'm not a creature of routine or anything, really!- I made some dog biscuits. They are Maggie inspired, even though she is a one biscuit girl, preferring the classic Milkbone only. My neighbor dogs and Comet will enjoy them. There are a basic wheat, and a cheesy one (foreground) that tastes good to people, too!

Until next week's maple session...


suzyboo said...

If you can not find real maple flavoring would it be ok to substitute with real maple syrup?

octavius' human said...

Have you made those cheesy dog bisquits in the past? I recall having a taste...and you are right, they aren't too bad.

suzyboo - I think you would need to add much more syrup to get the flavor which is concentrated. You would also need to adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe.

Janet said...

Suzyboo!!! Dan's right about the concentration I think. Definitely the sugar would be an issue. The extract was really potent. I wonder if you could cook down the syrup? You'd run into the problem of getting the sugar more and more cooked- like the trouble with using malt extract to make beer. I don't know if you remember that or not, but it's pretty dark and that makes it difficult to make a very light colored beer like a lager. If there were a way to dehydrate without heat...

Octavius' human!!! That's terrific!! The cheesey dog biscuits are actually a dog biscuit recipe. They are suprisingly similar to those "cheese coins" I made from a people recipe. Both are practically identical to cheese nips which does make one wonder about the effort.