If the crew is boiling at suppertime they fill their bowls in the front room when they can snatch a moment. The stoker retreats to the back side of the evaporator where there is a counter to sit on if the fire has just been stoked or to rest one’s bowl on if she must get up to stoke. The person drawing syrup at the finish trough has to either hand the job off to someone so she can eat or set her bowl on a counter and gobble a few mouthfuls in between pails of syrup.
Often when the cook calls Supper no one responds until the meal is cold. We are hungry but the evaporator rules. The worst timing is when she brings out supper just after the last stoke of the day. Cleanup chores take a good hour and need to be done right away. The crew has to push off the hunger.
On the day that Maple Trout Lilli delivered a platter of chicken, the boiling ended early and the crew sat down for a real meal in the front room. Walt sat on a chair by the woodstove, Larry stood up in the corner by the buckets of tubing parts, Chief of Operations sat on the gold bench, and Christian was near the skinny door. Pandemic-distanced but close in storytelling. They sampled wheat-and-cherry-beer brewed by a neighbor. I arrived in time from a walk in the sugarbush to hop onto the blue counter to finish off the last piece of MTL’s sweet-and-savory chicken.
Maple Trout Lilli writes:
A flavorful take on a classic… would make a lovely centerpiece on Easter, Passover, or any Spring night at the sugarhouse
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (about 3.5 lbs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 tablespoons savory herbs (rosemary, thyme, herbs de provence)
4 cloves minced garlic
1. Heat oven to 450°. Combine maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, set aside. Combine oil, herbs and garlic and smear all over chicken, including underneath the skin.
2. Place in a 9×13 baking pan or a couple of cast iron skillets; cook, basting occasionally with pan juices, 30 minutes. Brush chicken with maple syrup mixture and continue to cook until browned and an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°, about 30 minutes more. I took the smaller pieces out a few minutes earlier.