Guests who eat breakfast at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill probably don't even give a second thought to the syrup that covers their stacks of pancakes. But if they ask, they'll get a history lesson.
The maple syrup — which is sold in 6-ounce bottles for $6.98 — is processed on the property the same way the Shakers did it in the 1800s.
The Shakers at Pleasant Hill tapped the maple trees, but not to a great extent, said Ralph E. Ward II, museum program and agri-tourism manager. "It was not always successful. It was greatly dependent on the winter variations in the temperature.
"This process was much more common in the Northeast — where the harsh winters require the trees to store up more starch in the trunks and roots for cold weather survival. This starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the late winter and early spring."
Syrup making is mentioned as early as the 1830s but might have been done on a smaller scale much earlier, Ward said, adding that Shaker Village has been making the syrup for the past five years as an interpretive program. The yield is about 10 to 15 gallons of finished syrup each spring.
"Since the basic process is just cooking down (reducing), there is really no special training required. That being said, experience results in a much better product," Ward said.
Among the Shakers, tapping the trees and collecting the sap was men's work, he explained. The processing/cooking would be done by the women.
Maple syrup breakfasts are served from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Saturdays during March. The cost is $10.95. Call 1-800-734-5611, Ext. 360, or go to Shakervillageky.org.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is at 3501 Lexington Road, Harrodsburg.
Here is a recipe for fried cornmeal mush that is served at the maple syrup breakfasts.
Fried cornmeal mush
11/4 cups plain white cornmeal
21/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix ingredients together and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 7 minutes. Pour into a loaf pan and chill overnight.
Unmold and slice into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices. Dust with cornmeal and fry over moderate heat until golden, turning to make sure surface doesn't burn. Serve with butter and maple syrup. Makes 10 to 12 slices, depending on size of loaf pan.