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It’s Sugar Time, Maple That Is!

February 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Experience

It’s maple time in New England.  Sugar maples have begun to ooze their sweet sap, maple farmers have tapped their sugar bush and boiling has begun in sugar houses.

Maple Syrup Evaporator

Maple syrup evaporator. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

If you’ve tasted real maple syrup, you know how delectable this creamy-caramely natural sweetener is.   The pitcher on the table at the Waffle House is not real maple syrup but rather corn syrup (usually high fructose) flavored with fennugreek.  Try a side by side comparison and you will never go back to the “maple flavored” sweeteners.

Maple syrup’s role in the kitchen goes well beyond pancakes and waffles.  Anything where sugar or honey is added is territory for maple.  If a food caramelizes, maple will work there as well.  And now that I think of it, maple shows up in a meats as well.

Here is just a sample of foods where I have added maple syrup for wonderful flavor:

  • The Vermont Pie I made and wrote about
  • Ice creams and custards (crème brulée anyone? I haven’t made it yet but have tried it at a restaurant.)
  • Morning oatmeal
  • Caramelized onions (add instead of sugar to speed the process)
  • Roasted winter vegetables
  • Glaze on fish from cod to salmon before broiling or grilling
  • Quick glaze for meats by combining applesauce, maple syrup and a little sweet white wine.
  • Drizzle over poached pears.
  • Add to crumbles, bettys, grunts, strudles, cobblers or pies made with fruit.

Though excited the season has begun, I am not driving down to the sugar shack to pick up 2010’s first batches.  I like my syrup dark, Grade B or Grade A Dark Amber, and that does not come until later in the season.   The first sap is light in color and  flavor.  As the season progresses, it becomes darker and stronger.

Maple syrup at a farmstand in Vermont.

Maple syrup at a farmstand in Vermont.

Grading systems vary, but in New England you will usually find Grade A Fancy or Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B.  The grades have nothing to do with quality but have everything to do with taste.  Grade B is usually used in cooking because the strong flavor holds up to heat.

The best way to find your favorite type of syrup is to visit one of the many maple festivals or open sugar houses this season and taste for yourself.

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