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Nothing says spring in New England like tiny flowers poking up from the ground, the sound of melting icicles on a rooftop, and, yes — maple syrup boiling away on an evaporator. Maple syrup is a New England staple and the result of heating maple sap at a high temperature to evaporate the water off and distill a viscous, sweet syrup, per the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. According to statistics from the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, nearly 4.24 million gallons of maple syrup were produced in the United States in 2019.
Like other food commodities, maple syrup is graded on a scale based on color and flavor, based on information from the Agricultural Marketing Research Center. Grade A Light Amber (also called "Fancy") is the lightest color syrup and is typically produced early in the season for maple cream and maple candy. Grade A Medium Amber is commonly poured over pancakes; it’s darker and has a more robust maple flavor. Lastly, the Grade A Dark Amber is the darkest and most maple-forward variety produced.
Whatever kind of maple syrup you enjoy, you should be thrilled to know that it has more uses in the kitchen besides being drizzled over waffles and pancakes. Maple syrup is a versatile ingredient in your kitchen for cooking, baking, and even bartending!
Make a fresh salad dressing
Maple syrup adds the perfect bit of sweetness to salad dressings. The simplest maple-mustard dressing can be made from maple syrup, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, oil, and vinegar. The Modern Proper recommends adding mayonnaise to this dressing for extra creaminess. A creamier dressing can also be used as a dip for fresh sliced veggies or spread onto your favorite sandwich with sliced deli meats and cheese.
Although you can make this dressing in a bowl with a whisk, you can also use a food processor. According to KitchenAid, the shape of the processor allows you to add the oil through the drizzle basin or the food tube for better emulsification of the oil into the rest of the ingredients. The dressing can be left in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to serve, try adding the dressing to a BlenderBottle and shake to combine all the ingredients.
Substitute for white sugar when baking
According to the Vermont Maple Sugar Association (VMSA), maple syrup can be substituted for white sugar in most recipes, including in yeasted bread and batters. The VSMA recommends using ¾ cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar. You’ll also have to decrease the amount of liquid used elsewhere in the recipe by two to four teaspoons for each cup of syrup used. The VMSA also recommends adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the recipe — unless sour cream, buttermilk, or sour milk is used. This will combat the viscosity of the maple syrup and make the bake less dense.
You may also have to adjust the oven temperature slightly to account for the chemical changes in the maple syrup; the VSMA claims that adding maple syrup to a batter may cause it to caramelize more quickly than white sugar. A 25 F temperature difference may mean saving your baked treat from a fiery death in the bottom of your oven.
Add to coffee or tea
If you’re looking for a bit of happiness in a mug, try adding a little maple syrup to your hot or iced coffee. The maple flavor is super mild and a little sweet, making it the perfect addition for someone without a sweet tooth craving. Maple syrup is also a lovely addition to your tea, resulting in a delicious drink fit for any weather. Unlike other sweeteners, maple syrup won’t settle to the bottom of the cup — plus, it contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
If you’re not a caffeine hound, try making your own maple steamer at home with The Flavor Bender’s recipe. You’ll want to add the milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon into a saucepan and heat to 180 F. You can froth the milk mixture by shaking it vigorously in a tightly-covered mason jar or by plunging it in a French press vigorously until frothy.
Make homemade maple candies
Maple candies can be shaped in almost any mold and require a single ingredient: maple syrup! To make maple candies at home, the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association instructs boiling two cups of maple syrup in a flat-bottomed saucepan until it reaches about 240 F, stirring occasionally. After that, you’ll want to remove the heat and cool to 175 F without stirring; this will allow the sugar crystals to solidify. After stirring rapidly for another five minutes, set into molds and cool. The maple candies will have a consistency similar to fudge!
The most common molds used for maple candy are shaped like tiny sugar maple leaves; you can purchase the molds on Amazon for less than $20. If you don’t want to make your own maple candy at home, you can purchase maple candy online from Fuller’s Sugarhouse in New Hampshire. These candies are the perfect treat to give friends or family — or just to give yourself!
Sugar-on-snow is a New England maple treat that uses freshly fallen snow, maple syrup, and a popsicle stick. The recipe from Edible Vermont is pretty simple: Pour one cup of hot maple syrup on a fresh snowbank in the desired pattern and roll it using the popsicle stick. The most important part of making sugar-on-snow is to guarantee that it is properly heated. Maple syrup that is too hot will melt the snow, while maple syrup that is too cold will stick to the bottom of the pot and be too watery to pour. According to Vermont.com, you’ll want to heat the syrup to 255 F before pouring it over fresh snow.
Amanda Fiegl from Smithsonian Magazine recommends pairing sugar-on-snow with a buttermilk donut or pickle with sugar-on-snow to curb the sweetness. If you don’t have freshly fallen snow, try making this recipe using shaved iced (ice in a blender).
There’s no combination quite like maple and smoked meats, and Maple pairs great with white meat, red meat, and fish. For a savory, simple dinner, combine maple syrup with tarragon, thyme, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar on a sheet pan with salmon.
One of the most obvious pairings of maple and meat involves bacon. You can make your own smoker at home using your oven by curing bacon slabs in the refrigerator with maple syrup, sugar, curing salt, and pepper for a few days before being placing it in a smoker on low heat for several hours. It is important to remember that the curing and smoking process does not actually cook the meat; it just infuses flavors. You can also roast the raw bacon in an oven on 400 F for 15-20 minutes before using a basting brush covered in maple syrup to coat the bacon gently. Finish it in the oven for a few minutes before enjoying it with pancakes and waffles!
Drizzle over baked brie
Baked brie is a popular dish at gatherings and is well known for its soft, delicate texture. When baked, the cheese becomes a melty, delicious background for flavors, spices, and seasonings. Fake Ginger’s maple pecan baked brie is just one way to combine maple and brie together. For this recipe, the brie is baked for 15-20 minutes before being drizzled with a mixture of maple syrup, brown sugar, and pecans and served with crackers. To add a savory element, sprinkle fresh rosemary or flaked sea salt on top.
Maple can also be an integral flavor in a stuffed brie recipe. Recipe Girl recommends wrapping baked brie in phyllo dough, layers of pecans, sliced Granny Smith apples, and maple syrup with brie. The flaky dough is the perfect match for the sweet flavors of the maple syrup and the apples and the nutty notes of chopped pecans.
Make maple sugar
Maple sugar is the result of syrup that has been almost completely evaporated. Although the water evaporates from the sugar, the maple flavor remains. According to MasterClass, maple sugar can replace white sugar in baking using a 1-to-1 ratio. However, bakers should only substitute a portion of maple sugar for white sugar as the maple flavor can be too strong in some recipes. Maple sugar chocolate chip cookies are one recipe where the maple sugar develops a distinct, brown-butter flavor with other ingredients in the cookie.
The process of making maple sugar at home is relatively simple and requires few supplies: a large saucepan, candy thermometer, a food processor, and approximately two cups of maple syrup (via MasterClass). The syrup needs to be cooked in the pan to 260 F (the "hard-ball" stage of candy-making) before being stirred and cooled into a brown-sugar-like consistency. Then, a food processor breaks apart the chunks of maple sugar into a fine, granulated texture.
Make maple lemonade
Lemonade is delicious and refreshing on its own, but have you ever considered adding a few spoonfuls of maple syrup to a cold glass? The sweetness curbs the bitterness of the lemon and provides an array of essential minerals.
Sugar and Soul’s Maine Maple Lemonade recipe uses three tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of pure maple syrup, and eight ounces of water to make this recipe. For lemonade, you’ll likely want to opt for freshly squeezed lemon juice, although using squeeze-jar juice can help save time! The Vermont Sugar Makers Association recommends using a medium or dark amber syrup for maple lemonade for its strong maple flavor. Simply mix the ingredients in a container and chill until you’re ready to sip.
Fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, and lavender boost freshness to a simple summery lemonade. Mint can also upgrade your lemonade’s flavor by offering the beverage a fresh, cool undertone.
Roast nuts with maple syrup
Roasted nuts are a savory snack with a powerful boost of protein and healthy fats. Adding maple syrup to your roasted nuts is guaranteed to keep you coming back for another handful — or more! 2 Cookin’ Mamas roasts unsalted peanuts with maple syrup, butter, brown sugar, and salt at 375 F for 15-20 minutes. It is especially important to shake the pan periodically to prevent the nuts from burning. For a spicy kick, try adding a sprinkle of cayenne pepper!
Peanuts are not the only type of nut that benefits from distinct maple flavor. Delightful Adventures’s recipe for maple glazed almonds utilizes warm cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to craft a crunchy texture with a sweet maple kick. Almonds have a lower roasting temperature than peanuts at 325 F, so it’s best to watch the almonds and monitor for signs of burning. Always store nuts in an air-tight container; you can also stick the container in the fridge to prevent the nuts from sticking to one another.
Add it to baked beans
Boston baked beans are a staple dish at New England barbecues, often flavored with animal fat (typically salt pork), vinegar, spices, and sweeteners. According to the Maine Folklife Center, North American indigenous tribes used maple syrup, bear fat, and beans as a staple, filling meal that utilized ingredients foraged in the region. The colonists then adapted the indigenous cooking techniques, such as cooking beans, sweeteners, and fats together overnight to avoid cooking on the Sabbath.
Although other types of beans can be substituted into this recipe, navy beans and pea beans are the two most common types of beans used for a traditional Boston baked beans recipe. Diverse baked bean recipes have emerged in the past few years and include global ingredients like gojuchang, barbecue sauce, and Dijon mustard. Despite these new ingredients, maple syrup remains a popular sweetener for baked beans because it’s an excellent complement to the dish’s meaty flavors.
Mix a maple cocktail
You don’t have to be a professional mixologist to create fun cocktails at home. And with the help of maple syrup, making a great cocktail has never been easier! Maple syrup is a great addition to cocktails in lieu of simple syrup because it does not leave any sugar granules at the bottom of the glass. Maple syrup also imparts an organic undertone that can elevate cocktails from Hoddy Toddies to Fourth Routes (made with Hennessy VS Cognac, ginger, lime juice, and maple syrup, according to Restaurant Business Online). The Good & Plenty cocktail, adapted from the Old Sugar Distillery, contains maple syrup, lemon juice, dry white wine, and two ounces of American Ouzo.
According to mixologist Meaghan Dorman in Restaurant Business Online, proper preparation of a maple syrup cocktail first ensures that the maple syrup is 100% pure. The best way to tell that maple syrup is pure is to read the label; "fake" maple syrup will contain a host of sweeteners and fillers beyond pure maple syrup. Dorman further recommends using a Grade A medium or dark amber maple syrup to impart the most flavorful notes on the beverage.
Make a maple-flavored dessert
Maple-flavored desserts know no bounds. Keep things boozy with a bourbon-maple monkey bread, a pull-apart sweet bread made with layers of bourbon caramel, maple-sweetened dough, cinnamon sugar, and confectioner’s glaze. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you might consider Martha Stewart’s simple maple cake recipe. This cake is made from both maple-flavored sponge cake and sweet maple icing. Although this cake is intended to be baked and frosted in a sheet pan, it can be easily adapted to make a multi-tiered cake. Oh, and may we suggest decorating with some maple candies?
The sweetness of the syrup may be too much for some bakers, so there are recipes with a hint of maple as well. This maple parsnip cake is made from a simple blend of shredded parsnips, maple syrup, almond meal, ginger, and toasted pecans. This cake’s nutty aroma perfectly complements the maple syrup’s sweetness and is reminiscent of fall. As a plus, the recipe can also be modified to reduce its sweetness.