The Sugar Run
We search the world over looking for new and different regional foods while perhaps ignoring a special and rare treat from our own backyard. Maple syrup has been made from the sap of eastern North American sugar maple trees for at least three centuries, and probably longer. Although it is not readily available year round and can be expensive, it is certainly worth the effort to seek out and use in your kitchen.
Transforming maple sap into syrup is a time-sensitive and time-consuming process:
- Maple syrup can only be made in the late winter when days are warm enough to start the sap flowing. The season typically lasts about six weeks.
- It takes about 40 gallons of sap and many long hours of boiling and evaporation to make one gallon of maple syrup.
- Making syrup is labor intensive as the trees must be tapped and the sap collected and transported to the processor. The sap must be boiled the same day it is gathered.
The distinct flavor and color of maple syrup develop during processing. The flavor is influenced by the location of the sugar maple trees, soil type, weather conditions during sugaring season, and processing techniques. Maple syrup is graded according to color. Grades have different names depending on the grading authority, but usually they range from Light Amber to Dark Amber for products sold directly to consumers. In general, the darker the syrup, the more intense the maple flavor.
Cooking with Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a natural, organic sweetener that you can use as an alternative to highly processed cane sugar or corn syrup. It is a good source of calcium, iron, and potassium.
When cooking with pure maple syrup, substitute 3/4-cup of maple syrup for every one cup of granulated white sugar. But don’t stop there, you will also need to decrease the liquid in your recipe by 2 to 4 tablespoons for each cup of syrup used. If you are making a baked good, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, unless your recipe calls for buttermilk, sour milk or sour cream. For any recipe using maple syrup, decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees as batters containing maple tend to quickly caramelize around the edges.
Pure granulated maple sugar can be substituted one-to-one in any recipe that calls for granulated white sugar.
About Maple Sugaring
Want to know more about the sugaring process? Try these links:
Or watch this short video from the Ohio State Parks on Making Maple Syrup
Maple Products for Your Kitchen
- Maple syrup is most often used on pancakes, but it can also be used to flavor baked beans, sweet potatoes and other roasted vegetables, or as a glaze on a baked ham.
- Maple sugar, which is made by evaporating even more water from the sap, is a great one-for-one substitute for cane sugar in baking.
- Maple butter, maple toffee, and maple candy are delicious sweet treats that can all be made at home from maple syrup.
So the next time you serve pancakes to your family, don’t reach for the artificially flavored corn syrup sweetener known as pancake syrup, reach for real, natural maple syrup. You’ll be glad you did.
Recipes with a Touch of Maple Sweetness
- 8 chicken leg quarters, skinned and divided into
- 2 pieces
- 1/2 lb shallots, peeled and left whole
- 1 clove garlic, sliced very thinly
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 large oranges
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup hot chicken stock
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place the chicken, shallots, sliced garlic, celery, bay leaves, fresh thyme, maple syrup and white wine into the Le Creuset 5 1/2-quart Round French Oven. Add the zest of the oranges, stir well, cover and chill overnight.
Drain the chicken and vegetables through a colander, reserving the marinade, and pat excess moisture from the chicken. Rinse and dry the French oven.
Heat the oil in the French oven and brown the chicken and vegetables in batches. Add the marinade and stock, and season well with salt and pepper. Cover and transfer to a 275F oven for around 2 hours or until the chicken is very tender.
Peel and remove the white pith layer from two oranges, then cut these oranges into thick slices. Squeeze the juice from the third and blend with cornstarch and cream. Transfer the French oven to a burner on low heat, add the blended juice and stir until the sauce is thickened. Arrange the chicken with orange slices around the top.
- 1-2/3 cups quick rolled oats
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup quick oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- 2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ pan. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, syrup or honey, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, shaking the pan to evenly cover the bottom and patting down gently. Bake the bars for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven, loosen the edges, and cool for 5 minutes. Use a knife to cut the bars while they are still warm in the pan. Carefully remove warm bars from the pan, and cool on a rack.
- 1-1/3 cups warm skim milk (110 degrees F)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
- 1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast
- 1teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 4 tablespoons light cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon skim milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Notes: Enjoyed warm from the oven (the way all cinnamon rolls are best eaten), these rolls amazed tasters, who could not believe we had shaved 150 calories, 12.5 grams of fat and more than two hours of prep time from the classic recipe. We now have a new favorite cinnamon roll. Depending on the humidity, the dough may need 1/4 cup extra flour (see step 2). Makes 12 rolls
For the dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees F. When oven reaches 200 degrees F, turn it off. Lightly grease large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Coat 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix milk, melted butter, and syrup together in large measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be sticky; if it seems too wet and is not forming a ball, add more flour as needed up to 1/4 cup and knead dough 2 minutes more.) Turn dough onto heavily floured work surface, shape into ball, and place in greased bowl. Cover and rest in warm oven for 10 minutes.
For the filling: While dough is resting, mix sugars, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter in medium bowl until incorporated.
On lightly floured work surface, roll dough into 18-inch by 12-inch rectangle with long side facing you. Sprinkle sugar mixture over dough, leaving 1/2 inch border along top edge, then lightly press sugar into dough. Starting at edge nearest you, roll up dough. Brush unsugared border with water, then press dough together to stick.
Using chef’s knife, slice dough into 12 rounds, then place in prepared pan with (freshest) cut side up. Cover pan with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and return to warm oven until rolls have nearly doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and heat oven to 350 degrees F (rolls will continue to rise on counter as you wait for oven to heat). Remove plastic wrap and bake until rolls are deep brown and filling is melted, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan front to back halfway through baking.
For the icing: While rolls are baking, whisk confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla together in small bowl until smooth. Remove pan from oven, turn rolls out onto rack, and then flip them right side up. Cool 10 minutes, then spread icing over rolls. Serve hot or warm.
- 1-1/2 loaf (1-1/2 pounds) Challah (Jewish egg bread)
- 4 cups half-and-half
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground Vietnamese cinnamon or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)
- Zest from one orange, grated
- Juice from one orange
- Seeds from one vanilla pod
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds, untoasted
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Maple Bread Pudding recipe in his cookbook, The Minimalist Entertains, page 250. Makes 8 servings
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. With a little butter, grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish or other 3-1/2 quart baking dish.
Cut Challah into 1-1/2-inch cubes. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and flip bread. Bake for another 5 minutes. Bread should be lightly browned on all sides. Add bread to baking dish and let cool to room temperature.
In large mixing bowl, whisk together half-and-half, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla seeds and salt until well blended. Pour mixture over bread. Using a spatula, lightly press bread into liquid. Let sit for about 15 minutes to allow bread to soak up the liquid.
Sprinkle toasted almonds over soaked bread and toss carefully to mix. Dot top with butter then sprinkle with untoasted almonds.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until top is brown and crusty. Halfway through the baking cycle, rotate pan and drizzle top with maple syrup or honey. If the honey is too thick to drizzle, heat for 15 to 30 seconds in the microwave.
Remove from oven. Pudding puffs up during baking and deflates as it cools. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to use maple syrup outside of breakfast foods?