Spring skiing through the sugar bush in the Adirondacks.
Depending on grammatical emphasis, the phrase, “Adirondack spring tonic,” refers to either something healthy and tasty to drink, or it describes the curative effect of early spring in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. I’ve imbibed generously this spring and will attest to the rejuvenating effects of both.
I can confirm both types of Adirondack Spring Tonic are effective. The following discussion on the first kind of Adirondack Spring Tonic – Adirondack Spring Tonic as something healthy and tasty to drink, includes recipe ideas.
An expansion on the second definition of Adirondack Spring Tonic describes how invigorating it is to feel warm sun, smell fresh earth, and hear bird song, includes much rhapsodizing about skiing and life in the Adirondack Mountains.
I first learned about drinking raw maple sap when a local shopkeeper offered to sell me a mason jar of maple sap for $4.50. “This is the stuff that flows out of the maple tree, the sap, usually boiled for syrup?” I asked. The sample was delicious, but not $4.50/quart delicious. “But consider the health benefits,” responded the store owner, noting Adirondack old timers consider raw maple sap a tonic, defined: 1. Tonic – a medicine that invigorates or strengthens. Since I aspire to become an Adirondack old timer, my mind flashed to our maple tree covered property and I silently calculated how many quarts of Adirondack spring tonic I could harvest. The resident biologist and I are experienced maple syrup producers, if one season counts as experienced, so I knew one maple tree can produce as much as 15-20 gallons of sap in a season. I declined the quart jar.
Maple tap at Adirondack Lifestyle Headquarters.
Four years and four tapped trees, spiles, and buckets later, I am hooked on home produced, fresh maple sap. I make tea, coffee, oatmeal, and rice pudding out of maple sap, and of course, I drink the chilled maple sap by the quart. Maple sap tastes slightly sweet and naturally, has a very subtle maple aftertaste.
The sap looks and feels like heavy water, but without the uranium.
Maple sugaring season is short but sweet in the Adirondacks; the sap only flows for about 6 weeks during that time when the days are sunny and warm and the nights are cold, so we enjoy Mother Nature’s tonic as much as we can, while we can. I start the day with black tea made with maple sap, no sweetener necessary, and proceed to oatmeal made with maple sap instead of water. The coup de grace in an Adirondack spring breakfast is the dessert from breakfast cup of Adirondack Maple Mocha Jo, based on coffee brewed using map sap, recipe below.
In a delightful Adirondack springtime synergy, the very same climatic conditions that cause the maple sap to flow create stupendous spring skiing. This brings us to tonic definition number 2. Tonic – anything invigorating physically, mentally, or morally. I feel silly stating the obvious, but I will. Spring skiing in the Adirondacks fits that definition to a ski, ooops, to a T.
Adirondack Spring Snow
Corn snow skiing is surely the best consolation for the imminent departure of winter. The repeated daily thaws and nightly re-freezing of the snow surface changes the snow crystal shapes over time. Like skiing on velvet, true corn snow is a delight to ski or ride once it softens in the afternoon. Corn snow is spring’s version of powder, only warmer. Like magic for your legs, turns in corn snow seem effortless.
The climb is always worth it. Always.
The air smells different in the spring in the Adirondacks. The dry air and essence of cold, new snow is replaced with a fresh, earthy scent from spots of exposed dirt and moss, thawed and warmed by the spring sun. The quiet, muffled shuffle of skis on snow in January is replaced with the sound of corn snow slipping away from edges, chickadee songs, woodpecker rat-a-tats, turkey gobble and yelps, and streams rushing with snow melt. Invigorating is one way to describe this experience, awesome is another.
As an invigorating back country ski on a warm, sunny, spring day that starts with a maple sap breakfast proves, drink it or live it, Adirondack spring tonic is good medicine.
Adirondack Maple Mocha Jo Recipe
8 0z. freshly brewed dark roast coffee using maple sap instead of water
1 teaspoon of organic unsweetened dark cocoa
~ 2 oz. milk as preferred
Squirt of vanilla
2 drops of stevia or maple syrup as preferred
Cinnamon sprinkle garnish
Combine all ingredients in a large mug, whisking cocoa well.
Adirondack Wild Berry Maple Crisp mit Sahne. Oh baby.
It has been a great summer for people spending time in the Adirondacks who also happen to love wild berries. And for those in that cohort who also work hard to eat locally grown food, this berry season is a super deluxe bonanza. For reasons a botanist can explain, the Adirondack region is enjoying an extremely productive wild berry season. The red raspberries started it off a few weeks ago, and these luscious red beauties have now been joined by their darker hued cousins; the wild black berry.
The health benefits incurred from eating berries is well documented. Fresh berries are some of the most powerful disease-fighting foods available. Consumption of fresh berries has been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, improved memory function, and healthy aging. However, although therapeutic, no one with a taste bud could ever confuse fresh berries with medicine. There is nothing as lovely to eat as a sun-warmed, sweet, juicy berry picked at peak ripeness. Preferably consumed the moment it is plucked.
A true berry lover can never get enough, so, what to do but pick and bake?!
Follow along for instructions on how to make Adirondack Wild Berry Maple Crisp.
Pick through the wild berries to remove any crud that might have fallen in the berry bucket during your fight through the bramble, er, your fun berry picking expedition.
Adirondack Wild Berry Maple Crisp
I bake gluten-free, but this recipe can easily be made with regular flour. If you use flour, use whole wheat flour. Do it for me.
You can also substitute regular berries from the market if you don’t have access to wild ones. But if you buy berries you’ll miss all the fun of insects bites and prickles on your arms and legs because you’re wearing shorts and a tank top due to the humidity and scorching heat. Don’t forget, it could be all the effort that makes the wild berries sweeter.* See my footnotes at end of this post.
I also have a thing for Adirondack maple syrup so I use maple sugar and maple syrup instead of sugar. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but why wouldn’t you want to?
2.5 cups Wild Raspberries, Blackberries or a combination of both, or Berries from the market
1 heaping tablespoon of Corn Starch
½ cup Maple Sugar
1/8 cup Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Gently mix together the berries, corn starch, maple sugar, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl. Set this aside.
½ cup Gluten Free Oatmeal
½ cup Almond Meal
¼ cup Coconut Flour**
1/3 cup Chopped Walnuts
½ cup Maple Sugar
1/8 cup Maple Syrup
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
6 tablespoons of Cold Butter
Mix together the oats, almond meal, coconut flour, walnuts, maple sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the maple syrup. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until you get a nice crumbly mix.
Pour the berry mixture into a small, shallow baking dish. I like to use a glass pie pan. Sprinkle on the crumb mixture trying not to be too fussy about lumps. Lumps are fine.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes in a 350-degree, preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown and the berry juices are bubbling and a delicious fragrance with a sweet berry top note and maple cinnamon undertones has permeated your home. The smell alone is delightful.
Remove from the oven and let the crisp rest for about 10 minutes.
Spoon out a serving of still warm crisp.
Quickly, spoon on some freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Notice how said cream melts into the nooks and crannies of the warm crisp, blending until it becomes one with the crisp.
Take a bite. Enjoy a moment of nirvana.
* Actually, I’ve always thought wild berries are sweeter because they are smaller and in the spirit of bio mimicry, wild berries are just like humans where smaller=sweeter.
** Be careful cooking with coconut flour; it is dense and dry, and sucks up more liquid than a teleskier at Alta on a spring day. I worked in a ski reference – yay!
Aside from the standard, “ski corn snow” thought, this morning’s 14-degree temperature and forecast for warm, sunny weather reminded me about the other Adirondack product harvested in spring – maple syrup. Although this delectable Adirondack treat is dear to my heart and taste buds, I admit it gets short shrift in the raving about springtime in the Adirondacks department, especially when the skiing everywhere in the Adirondacks is incredibly wonderful. Fortunately, the Adirondacks currently have excellent conditions; cold nights and warm, sunny days, for the harvest of both corn snow and the part of my oatmeal ski breakfast that makes it great; maple syrup.
Many people do not realize the Adirondacks of upstate New York produce a great deal of maple syrup. New York State ranks second in maple syrup production in the U.S. Take it from an expert who is hooked on maple syrup, Adirondack maple syrup laden treats are the best corn snow skiing fuel in town. I buy my syrup from local producers, very local. These days, I am a customer of my neighbor and friends at South Meadow Farm. We also enjoy our syrup from friends who are struck by the bug to make their own syrup. Maple syrup is a good habit to have since it is pretty ubiquitous here; it is not hard to find. I used to buy it at the mid-station chair lift at Whiteface Mountain.
Making maple syrup is not a difficult process, it just takes time and patience. My family even did it one year. It was a long time ago, in a county far away, when a lack of patience with the simmering process gave us the idea to finish it off inside, on the gas stove. The entire kitchen was covered in light, sticky coating. That was the best tasting maple syrup ever, but I wouldn’t recommend the process. As I mentioned, nowadays I buy it from Tony next door.
When two things come together on so many levels as nicely as corn snow and maple syrup, their point of intersection is bound to be at least interesting and possibly fun. This is indeed the case with woods skiing in the sugar bush. This year’s wonderful snow pack and simply perfect atmospheric conditions have created some of the best woods skiing in recent memory. There is a delightful feeling that comes with cutting off the trail, picking a line, and skiing between the trees, without fearing for one’s life. Last weekend was the perfect opportunity for woods skiing. The same wonderful Adirondack climatic scenario that creates great skiing also makes the sap run in the trees in the woods-skiing woods. The sap is collected via buckets and gravity-fed collection tubing that runs from tree to tree, amidst the previously described excellent ski lines between trees, to a collection point. Adirondack woods skiing at it’s finest, woods skiing in the sugar bush, or “Maple Tap Limbo,” tests how quickly you can duck under tubing going downhill on skis. Click on this link to see a sample of this traditional Adirondack agility ski event.
There is still time to experience both Adirondack corn snow skiing and maple syrup if you hurry. Although a winter storm is on its way to the Adirondacks, summer looms. You don’t have to ski through the sugar bush to enjoy the unique Adirondack Springtime synergy. Add Adirondack maple syrup to your oatmeal ski breakfast for a great and easier way to combine two of Mother Nature’s best Adirondack Springtime treats.
This morning’s 14 degree weather reminded me that Adirondack Spring includes the whole maple syrup thing: cold nights and warm, sunny days. Many people do not realize the Adirondacks of upstate New York are a big source of maple syrup. Vermont’s marketing tries to make maple syrup from there sound like a superior product, but take it from an expert, ours is better. I buy my syrup from local producers, very local. These days, I am a customer of my neighbors and friends at South Meadow Farm. We also sometimes get our syrup from friends who are struck by the bug to make their own syrup. Maple syrup is a good habit to have since it is pretty ubiquitous here; it is not hard to find. You can even buy it at the mid-station chair lift at Whiteface Mountain. Making maple syrup is not a difficult process, it just takes time and patience. My family even did it one year. It was a long time ago, in a county far away, when a lack of patience with the simmering process gave us the idea to finish it off inside, on the gas stove. The entire kitchen was covered in sticky. The wallpaper peeled off the walls from the sticky steam. That was the best tasting maple syrup ever, but I wouldn’t recommend the process. It is easier to buy it from Tony, next door. Today’s photo is in memoriam, and shows the remains of my x-c ski trail to the Jack Rabbit Trail.