Dear Sun Spots: I just wanted to share a maple sugaring shortcut. Approximately 30 or 35 years ago when my three children were still in school, we decided to tap three of our maple trees so they could make their own syrup. We bought five taps and started to collect the sap into gallon milk jugs. As you can imagine, it took several days to gather a decent amount of sap. So, each evening we’d pour the sap into a large canning pot and store it in the freezer. I read that sap freezes at 26 degrees Fahrenheit. To save time and energy, I’d remove the frozen canning pot from the freezer and let it sit in the kitchen overnight. The next day, it would be about half defrosted, we then removed the ice chunk that was left, started a camp fire and put the pot on it to boil. Since water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, that meant that all the liquid in the pot was mostly sugar sap and the ice chunk was mostly water. We let it evaporate to about ½ to 2/3 down and brought it into the kitchen. We strained it through a coffee filter lined sieve to remove any ash or dirt and cooked it down to the bottling stage. It didn’t steam up the kitchen at that point because most of the water had steamed off outside. – No Name, Lisbon

Answer: Sounds like it was a fun family time. If you’re still up to it, perhaps you and other family members would enjoy the following recipe found online at www.recipegoldine.com:

Maple popcorn balls – an old Algonquian treat. Ingredients: ¼ cup popping corn, ½ teaspoon salt (optional), 1 cup maple syrup, 1½ teaspoons butter. Method: Pop corn according to package directions. Season with salt, if desired. Heat syrup and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until temperature reaches 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer or until a few drops form soft balls when dropped in cold water. Remove pan from heat and pour mixture over popcorn. When mixture is cool enough, toss popcorn with syrup and mold into balls, and cool on a buttered baking sheet. Store cooled popcorn balls in an airtight container. Makes about 8.

Dear Sun Spots: I read your column every day, you seem to be just an encyclopedia of information, thanks for your great advice. I did find an address and phone number for the Rev. Gordon Newell after extensive Web searches. For anyone interested, the Rev. Newell now lives in Caribou. He has been very sick with cancer and has undergone extensive chemotherapy. His current address and telephone number is: 565 Van Buren Road, Caribou, ME 04736, (207) 498-2681.

Dear Sun Spots: In answer to Lucy Bisson’s search for mangosteen fruit information featured in the March 18 column: She and others interested in this fruit might like to check out the following Web site, www.jmorton.natureswellnesssecret.com. It will tell you all the many healthful benefits that are associated with this fruit. I would be happy to chat with this reader and she or anyone else who is interested may call me at (352) 686-0039. – Joline, No Town.

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