Kate explores Maple Syrup's Dark and Savory Side, including recipes like a Maple, Cranberry, Brie and Rosemary Melt, and Carrot Citrus Slaw with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette, plus selected romantic recipes in What To Eat This Month.
by Kate Heyhoe
Maple Syrup's Dark and Savory Side
Real maple syrup (not the faux version sold as pancake syrup) is a versatile staple for every kitchen, despite the perceived luxury price. Realistically, it's a bargain: true maple syrup packs such an intense punch that in cooking, just a small amount delivers a wallop of flavor. Plus, it's rich in antioxidants, has fewer calories than sugar, is naturally processed, free of additives, and harvested only in a small section of North America, making maple syrup a somewhat rare and indigenous ingredient, produced right in our own backyard, so to speak.
As a sweetener in desserts, maple syrup has no equal. But I use maple syrup mostly as a seasoning. Maple syrup ramps up savory dishes by adding not just a sweet note, but it also encourages other flavors to sing out loud. It harmonizes beautifully with herbs like rosemary and thyme, spices like chile and black pepper, and acids like lime and lemon juices, balsamic and red wine vinegars. As the guide below explains, the darker the syrup, the more robust the flavor; the paler the syrup, the milder the taste.
To better understand why maple syrup has such limited production and how to use it in recipes, read the tips that follow.
Maple Syrup: Tips and Facts
- Substitute maple syrup one-on-one for liquid sweeteners, like corn syrup (or molasses or honey).
- Replace sugar by an equal amount of maple syrup but reduce the amount of liquid ingredients by about 2 to 4 tablespoons in most recipes.
- Real maple syrup contains no corn syrup; check the label of pancake syrups and other products to make sure they're 100% maple syrup and not just "maple-flavored."
Flavor and Grading
- The darker the syrup, the more intense the flavor. Both Canada and the United States assign grading systems to maple syrup, which reflect the flavor profile and not the quality. "Grade A" is harvested early in the season and consequently is lighter in color and flavor than late-season's "Grade B," which is darker and more robust. Grade A syrup ranges from "light amber" to "medium amber" to "dark amber" in color, and stretches from delicate to more assertive in flavor with each shade. Grade B has the richest, most caramel-like taste. Both grades are fine for cooking. Use Grade A when a more subtle maple flavor is desired. Grade B is used for granolas and in commercial food production, but it's also available to home cooks, in grocery or specialty stores.
- In my home kitchen, I use either Grade B or Grade A dark amber when pairing maple syrup with strong seasonings (like chile and citrus). For beverages and fresh fruit, I prefer Grade A light or medium amber.
Production and Nutrients
- Canadian maple syrup comes mostly from Quebec, and Canada itself yields 80% of the world's supply. The rest comes from the United States, mostly Vermont and other New England states.
- The harvest season is short, just 12 to 20 days, from March through April. Warmer daytime temperatures create pressure, pushing water absorbed by the trees down to the bottom of their trunks, making sap collection possible.
- One liter of maple syrup (or about a quart) requires forty liters of raw sap to make it. The sap is boiled and reduced until thick and a syrup consistency, or evaporated further to make maple butter, taffy, or sugar.
- Maple syrup is a pure product, free of coloring or additives. Organically-labeled syrups comply with official organic standards.
- According to the Canadian Nutrient File (Health Canada), maple syrup has fewer calories than corn syrup or honey, is rich in antioxidants, and is a good source of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. As far as Daily Values go, 1/4 cup of maple syrup contains 100% of the Daily Value of manganese, 34% of riboflavin, and 11% of zinc.
If you live in a snow zone and have kids, try this "recipe" from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers: Make Maple Taffy by pouring reduced hot maple syrup onto clean snow. Once sufficiently hardened, the soft maple candy can be twirled around a wooden stick and enjoyed.
Go beyond breakfast: Maple syrup is a natural glaze and grilling sauce. Halved acorn and other winter squash love to be baked with it. Maple syrup drizzled on vanilla ice cream rivals caramel sauce, especially with a sprinkle of sea salt or cinnamon. Light amber maple syrup stands-in as an instant simple syrup for cocktails and beverages. And who can resist the aroma of maple-sweetened crusty corn bread?
Speaking of savory dishes, salmon and steelhead trout profit from a touch of sweetness. So for an elegant but easy meal, I serve them simply: pan-fried or grilled with nothing more than chipotle chile and sea salt, then plated with a drizzle of maple syrup and a squeeze of lime. Get more ideas from the maple recipes below.
Maple Syrup Recipes
...from the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers
A Maple Celebration Menu
For an easy Valentine's Day, or other special occasion
Maple Syrup Recipes
- Maple French Toast
- Great Coconut-Maple Granola
- Maple-Ginger Butter
- Winter Squash Spoonbread with Maple Syrup
- Native Wild Rice Pudding with Maple Syrup and Cherries
- Maple-Glazed Figs with Hazelnut Mascarpone
- Apple-Maple Roasted Pork Loin
- Roast Turkey with Maple Glaze, Pears and Bourbon
- Holiday Roast Turkey with Maple
- Roast Duck with Maple Syrup
- Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with Maple Syrup
- Maple Pudding with Sugared Pecans
- Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Cranberry-Walnut Bundt Cake with Maple Espresso Glaze
What to Eat This Month
- Breakfast Valentines Chocolate Scone
- Heart-Shaped Wontons
- Roasted Potato Skins
with Sour Cream and Caviar
- Double Chocolate Valentine Cake
Bird of the Month
Copyright © 2011, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified February 2011