For most of us, it’s just not possible to think of soft, buttery pancakes, fluffy French toast or crisp, chewy waffles without a sweet puddle of maple syrup. Gently warmed or poured straight up, maple syrup has been part of our culinary culture for many hundreds of years, its collection first practiced by Native Americans who shared it with European settlers. Consumed for breakfast (broil it on grapefruit!), used to add flavor to baked beans, sweet potatoes or winter squash, as a glaze for meat, granulated for pastries or fashioned into melt-in-your-mouth maple candy, maple syrup products are available at all times of the year though the sap doesn’t flow until March.
While procuring sap and producing maple syrup evokes a Currier & Ives kind of scene for many of us, replete with quaint, snow-covered log cabins and bright sugar houses steaming away, in reality it’s an arduous, labor-intensive process. Boiling too long can cause it to crystalize and boiling too little can result in a watery product that easily spoils. Rigors withstanding, the exacting process is carried out on family farms in the New England tradition or given to large manufacturing facilities.
Though Quebec, Canada, is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup and responsible for three-quarters of the world’s output–approximately $141 million USD, Vermont–with its plethora of indigenous mature maple trees (they must be 30 to 40 years old to be tapped)–contributes 5.5 % of the global supply. Our own state of Maine ties with New York State for 3rd place, producing over 300,000 gallons of maple syrup annually.
Traditionally thought of as the quintessential pancake and waffle topper, not to mention transforming ordinary oatmeal into something close to dessert, adding maple syrup can also turn ordinary meats, casseroles, stews and other savory main dishes into delicious lunches and dinners even the pickiest family member will request again and again. These recipes are sure to make bona fide maple syrup mavens out of everyone.
Maple Mustard Pork Tenderloin
1 whole pork tenderloin
3 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons coarse grain Dijon mustard
Fresh sage for garnish
Slice pork tenderloin into 1/3-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with 1½ teaspoons sage, salt, and generous amount of pepper. Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 1-1/2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate, leaving drippings in skillet. Add broth, maple syrup, mustard, and remaining 1½ teaspoons sage to skillet. Boil until syrupy and thick, about 3 minutes, scraping up browned bits. Reduce heat to low. Return pork and any accumulated juices to skillet and cook until just heated through, about 1 minute. Serve pork with sauce. Garnish with fresh sage.
Maple Apple Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon thyme
Pound chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness. Simmer the chopped apple, apple juice and syrup until apple is broken down and liquid is reduced by half, about 10-12 minutes. Line broiler pan with foil, place the chicken breasts on foil and brush with the syrup mixture. Broil for approximately 4 minutes. Turn chicken breasts over, brush with syrup mixture and broil another 4-5 minutes, until cooked through.
Maple Sweet Potato Biscuits
1 large red-skinned sweet potato, pierced with fork
1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour plus additional
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Microwave potato until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Halve; scoop out 1 cup flesh. Cool. Blend flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse to coarse meal. Add potato, buttermilk, and syrup; process to blend. Add nuts; pulse to blend.
Sprinkle dough with flour. Pat into 8 1/2-inch square. Cut into 16 biscuits. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.
Maple Rice Pudding
3 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (12 oz.) low-fat evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups skim milk
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Serve warm or chilled, topped with fresh berries, cinnamon or whipped cream if desired.