As I continue wandering the US Midwest driving from Chicago to Texas, I got my kicks finding a yummy surprise in Illinois on Old Route 66.

Maple sugar and “sirip” in Funks Grove, Illinois.

I’ve always thought of maple sugar products as treats from New England or Canada, but they are made right here on Route 66, just off of Interstate 55 between Bloomington (home of Beer Nuts!) and Springfield IL.

Debby Funk had plenty left to sell when I stopped by the tiny shop; she says the sap is collected around February here, which also surprised me because maple sugaring is a fall goodie in Rhode Island, an early spring goodie in Rhode Island, where I last bought maple syrup right from the maker. (Update: my New England-born husband set me straight on the timing for sugaring, so I guess February in Illinois does make sense and my memory was scrambled in correctly recalling our time in Rhode Island!)

Have you ever tasted the sap when it’s tapped straight from a sugar maple tree at the right time of year? It’s clear and incredibly sweet.

The Funk family has always spelled their product “sirip” or “sirup,” because they say that’s the traditional way to spell it when no sugar is added.

All I know is that my teenager and I drove along past the Illinois cornfields with big blobs of maple sugar candies stuck to the roofs of our mouth, grinning like idiots.

Technorati tags: travel, Funks Grove, Illinois, Route 66, maple sugar