The Sweetness of Maple Syrup
Chef Robert Turner shares some easy ways to use maple syrup, a favorite natural sweetener, in your everyday cooking.
Each year I eagerly await for the event that signals winter is definitely turning into spring: silver tin buckets that suddenly appear hanging from the side of trees, as if woodland elves came in the night and hung a sign saying, “sweet spring is in the air.”
These buckets, and the more modern blue piping that laces through the woods, are tapping maple trees for their sap. Freezing nights and “warm” days (above freezing) encourage the sap to flow, and when it starts, producers spend a lot of time in the “sugar bush” (a maple syrup production farm), collecting the sap that will be boiled down into syrup and sugar for our culinary enjoyment.
It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, which is one reason maple syrup costs more than sugar. The sap is boiled down in an evaporator that allows water to escape (as steam) while the sugar is retained, leaving behind a delicious, sticky, sweet treat that can be used to make treats like Tim McGuire’s Maple Nut Scones. Maple syrup is a versatile and valuable ingredient to have in your kitchen. Here are some ways to use it in your everyday cooking.
Add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup to a cup of your favorite balsamic vinaigrette, then use the dressing on a plain green salad, roasted or grilled vegetables, pasta salad, potato salad, or a grain salad—or as a dipping sauce for crudités or other finger foods.
For a savory glaze, take two tablespoons of butter or butter substitute and ¼ cup of maple syrup and melt them together in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the items you wish to glaze (roasted vegetables like carrots are a favorite, and meats can be glazed too) and cook to desired tenderness. If the pan gets too dry, or starts to scorch, add a little water.
For a sweet glaze, add ¼ cup of powdered sugar to the savory glaze above. Drizzle this sweet glaze over cookies, sticky buns, cakes, or muffins. It dries quickly, so use it up or cover tightly if storing.
Maple syrup can be a great sugar alternative in coffee or tea, or add it to hot breakfast cereal. Baking with maple syrup can be tricky, but it can work. In general, replace the sugar with half the amount of maple syrup. You can also substitute equal amounts of maple syrup for sugar, but for every cup of maple syrup, reduce the other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup.
Share your favorite way to use maple syrup in the comments below.