Farmers' Market Share: Real Maple Syrup and Cranberry Sauce

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Alissa Nelson
My life philosophy? Always use real maple syrup.

Huh?

What I mean is this: Don't put artificial, industrial food products into your body. Rather, eat real food whenever possible. It will taste better, and you will feel better. It builds community and supports small businesses.

Supermarket maple syrup conjures plastic bottles molded into the shape of a mammy. History of latent racism aside, the product inside is just plain gross, usually a combination of high-fructose corn syrup, sugar and citric acid with some flavoring. Yes, it's thicker than regular maple syrup -- thanks to the addition of cellulose gum.

Maple syrup? It's sugar maple sap tapped from living trees and boiled down to a reduction. Then, it goes into a bottle. That's it. When I was growing up, my parents would visit a family who lived a couple of miles down the street and tapped the trees on their property. That was our syrup source.

There aren't really maple farms, per se, but a network of producers around New England. Sugaring time means long days of boiling the sap down, which usually translates into many different people contributing and helping out. That -- and supporting small farmers -- is what I mean by building community.

When I moved to St. Louis, I had the sad realization that maple syrup costs way more here and is probably shipped in from the Northeast. But then I discovered Marble Creek Sugar Leaf. It's not quite the maple syrup to which you're accustomed. Joe and Sandy Gorse make a syrup that's actually more intense, floral and mapley than Grade B (my favorite) syrup. Definitely give them a call and see if you can get a jar.

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