Our neighbor Mark Lattanzi has a backyard sugar shack, and on Saturday he and his family hosted a potluck sap boil. Alejandro invited us to come along and we took drop cookies made with some of Elise Bauer’s intense Seville Orange marmalade.
While walking us through the process of boiling sap down to syrup, Mark mentioned that at the Y earlier this month, some old timer had asked him how the sap was flowing. They talked for a few and then the guy mentioned that all he cared about was having enough sap to make his boiled parsnips.
Curious, Mark decided to try his own parsnips boiled in sap. While Mark tended to the evaporator, Susan Chang took over the parsnips.
The raw sap had the texture and taste of a light sugar water. Susan got a pot of it boiling in the kitchen and roughly chopped the parsnips. They went into the pot of sap and simmered until they were tender.
While we sat around snacking on Kimberly Simmons’ venison stew and talking beer with her husband John (a cidermaker and home brewer), Susan drained the parsnips, mixed in a little butter, then seasoned to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The finished parsnips were tender but still had some tooth to them. They tasted a little like young carrots, pleasantly woody (Susan nailed it with “sandalwood”) and slightly sweet, though how much of that was from the sap I’m not sure. They went surprisingly well with a glass of Guiness.
Next weekend, I may drop by and see if I can scrounge enough sap from Mark to use for some glazed parsnips (recipe below). It’s my favorite way to eat them. I wonder if I could leave out the sugar?
3-4 large parsnips, washed well and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water
1. The parsnip cores can be tough and woody, so you may want to cut them out. Leaving them in though will give the finished dish more texture.
2. Melt the butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the parsnips. Stir in the sugar and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the parsnips.
3. Cover the pan and simmer the parsnips until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are barely tender when you insert a knife, about 10-12 minutes.
4. Remove the cover and let any leftover liquid evaporate. Add a tablespoon or so of water back to the pan, just enough to deglaze. Shake the pan to coat the parsnips with the glaze.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.