Maple Month is here!

  • Erik Lively's Maple Bacon Delight. Contributed photo/Erik Lively

  • Jordan Lively tests the syrup coming out of the electric evaporator at Sunrise Farms in Colrain. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Grades of maple syrup at Sunrise Farms in Colrain. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Grades of maple syrup at Sunrise Farms in Colrain.

  • Sunrise Farms sugar shack is completely electric and produces no steam plume or smoke.

  • Maple products at Sunrise Farms in Colrain. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 3/12/2020 9:36:24 AM
Modified: 3/12/2020 9:36:12 AM

“I’ve been doing it my whole life, but I still get excited when we boil,” Erik Lively said on a recent day. Lively is one-quarter of the staff at Sunrise Farms in Colrain, where Massachusetts Maple Month was officially launched this past Friday.

The remaining personnel includes his parents, Rocky and Marilyn, and his brother, Jordan. “That’s the entire operation,” said Erik Lively. Sugaring is their main business, he reported, but they have other sources of income on the farm. “We have beef cattle, and we also do some construction work,” he noted.

He and his brother are fifth-generation farmers at Sunrise Farms, which has been in the family since 1888. He doesn’t know where the farm’s name came from. “That’s a great question,” Lively said. “I wish I could ask my great-great-grandfather.”

The new addition at Sunrise this year is the EcoVap, a closed system that boils the maple sap so efficiently that all the steam is kept inside to be compressed and continue to heat the syrup.

Lively admitted that he misses the smell of boiling sap. “It’s a sacrifice we make to go green,” he said. The system is solar-powered and holds the heat so well that the family has had to install a wood stove in the building in order to stay warm while working.

The EcoVap was a major factor in the decision to launch maple month at Sunrise Farms.

“Each year, the board of the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association chooses a host farm for the season kickoff event that features the breadth and diversity of the maple industry in the state,” according to the association’s coordinator, Winton Pitcoff, of Plainfield.

“We try to have it in different towns each year and feature producers of different sizes and with different management practices. We’re particularly excited to give the Livelys a chance to show off their new energy-efficient evaporator,” Pitcoff continued. “Although the recipe for maple syrup hasn’t changed in hundreds of years — boil off the water from the sap until it’s just right — the industry is constantly innovating to make sure that our practices are sustainable. And many maple producers are at the forefront of using modern technology to reduce their environmental impact.”

Friday’s season opener brought the state’s commissioner of agriculture John Lebeaux to Colrain to tap “the first tree of the season” at Sunrise Farms. Sugaring actually started at the farm in early February, but the tapping is a charming tradition that no one wants to lose.

“I am proud to participate in a ceremonial tapping at Sunrise Farms to kick off Massachusetts Maple Month, which helps connect consumers with local business, encourages agritourism, and leverages natural resources to support economic activity in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Lebeaux.

“Massachusetts has a proud tradition of supporting our maple syrup industry, and I encourage Massachusetts residents to visit their local farms and producers this month.”

“We’re beyond honored,” Erik Lively said of the idea of inaugurating maple month at Sunrise Farms. Lively proudly noted that all of the farm’s products — maple syrup, maple sugar, and maple cream — are certified organic. The farm sells its wares at the Greenfield and Northampton farmers’ markets.

There is also a small store at Sunrise Farms, but since the family is constantly on the move at work he suggested that anyone wanting to visit should call first.

The EcoVap is supposed to produce “better looking, better tasting, and more consistent quality of maple syrup,” Lively said. So far, he and his father and brother (who spend a lot of their time tasting their products) agree that this year’s syrup is delicious.

In cooking and baking, Lively said he substitutes maple sugar for brown and white sugar in recipes and adds it to his coffee.

His favorite recipe using maple syrup is below, a decadent sweet-and-salty concoction. He loves cooking with the farm’s product and working with his parents and brother to create it.

“I enjoy being self-employed and working with my family,” he said. “Nothing beats it. Families sometimes butt heads and stuff, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Erik’s Maple Bacon Delight

Over the past decade or so, the combination of bacon and maple syrup has become increasingly popular. Below is Lively’s favorite way to put those two flavors together. The squares are so popular that they seldom make it to the table, he said.

For fun, I substituted a sheet of defrosted puff pastry for the crescent rolls; the standard frozen package contains two sheets, each weighing a little over 8 ounces. I stretched it as well as I could to make the surface area a little bigger. Additionally, I chopped the bacon into tiny strips before frying them. The small pieces took about 12 minutes to cook but produced a uniform size once they were cooked.

1 pound bacon

1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls (8 ounces)

1/4 cup Grade A Amber Maple Syrup, divided

1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer it to a paper-towel-lined plate. When the bacon is cool, crumble it.

Roll the crescent rolls out onto the parchment. Pinch the seams together to make a single sheet of dough. Prick the top all over with a fork to keep the dough from puffing up too much. Drizzle on half of the maple syrup (2 tablespoons).

Top the syrup with all of the brown sugar, doing your best to cover the whole sheet of dough. Sprinkle on the cooked, crumbled bacon, distributing it evenly, and drizzle the remaining maple syrup over everything.

Bake until golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let the concoction cool completely before cutting it into square pieces and serving. Makes 16 squares, more or less, depending on how big you cut them. (The smaller the better; they are rich and sweet.)

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, tinkycooks.com.


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