Maple sauce: sweet and savory
There is no question that the climate is warming. Already in February, half the days were above freezing. In the past, maple season began in March and ended in mid-April. This year, warmer-than-usual weather had many maple producers tapping trees early.
Maple syrup is produced only in the northeast United States and eastern Canada, where warm days and chilly nights move sap up and down through the trunk. Sap moves up through the tree when day temperatures rise above freezing, carrying nutrients from the tree roots up to the crown. When temperatures fall below freezing at night, the sap travels back down; this is when it can be collected.
The season is brief, but the trees are prolific. One tree will produce about a gallon of syrup, made by boiling down 40 gallons of sap. Maple tree seedlings must grow for 40 years before the trees are big enough to be tapped for syrup.
Pure maple syrup is sweet and wholesome. It is simply sap that has been boiled and concentrated; there are no added chemicals in this naturally made product. But be careful – most products sold in the syrup aisle of the supermarket are not pure maple syrup, but rather sugar syrup with maple flavor. So get the real thing from local producers.
Our bodies absorb maple’s natural sugars more slowly than processed cane sugar. And while table sugar has no nutrients, maple sugar contains important minerals. Zinc (1.6 mg. in an ounce of syrup) is important for immunity. Manganese (1.2 mg per ounce of syrup) and calcium help keep your bones strong. Other important nutrients include the minerals iron, potassium as well as beneficial phytochemicals. There are 50 calories in a tablespoon of syrup, which is 66 percent sugar.
The scrumptious sweet sap has many uses. Most people use it to top pancakes or waffles and flavor drinks. Some use it to replace sugar in baked goods like muffins or quick breads.
Maple adds wonderful flavor to savory dishes too. It’s great in bean dishes like ragout or bean salad. It is good with butter to caramelize vegetables and makes a great glaze for ham and other meats.
Syrup makes great sauces – from salad dressings to deserts and meat marinades. Many producers sell ready-made marinades and dressings like maple mustard, sweet and tangy maple barbecue sauce, or maple vinaigrette. But it is easy to make your own. Combine maple syrup with Dijon mustard for a delicious, all-purpose glaze for fish, chicken, pork or vegetables. Add garlic or hot pepper if you like more spice.
Here are some recipes for sauces made from maple to dress your salad, glaze or marinate meat, or top fresh fruit desserts. Enjoy! Maple season is here — and spring is on its way!
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Crush garlic with salt; place in bottom of salad bowl. Stir in mustard, maple syrup, cider vinegar and olive oil; blend with a fork. Add salad greens and veggies, toss to combine, and serve.
Note: I prefer to make the dressing fresh, but you can combine vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake well before pouring over salad. In that case, make a little more: Use 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 Tablespoons maple syrup, 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon prepared mustard, 1/2 teaspoon thyme and 1 teaspoon salt.
Maple Marinade for fish or chicken
2/3 cup Tamari or soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons white wine or sherry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
Combine ingredients in jar. Shake well to combine.
Use to marinade one to two pounds of fish fillets or chicken pieces. Also good for tofu or tempeh.
Marinade in refrigerator for at least an hour, turning occasionally to coat. Then grill or bake in oven.
Maple glaze for Ham or Pork
3/4 cup broth
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce to simmer and cook about 10 minutes. Pour over ham or pork roast during last hour of baking. Baste occasionally.
3-Ingredient Maple Dessert Sauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup (or to taste)
In cup or bowl, using a fork or whisk, blend yogurt, sour cream and maple syrup.
This makes a wonderful topping for fruits like berries. This also makes a wonderful dressing for a mixed fruit salad.
Makes enough to top four bowls of berries.
Adirondack Maple Custard Sauce
3/4 cup half-and-half
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup Adirondack maple syrup
Prepare a double boiler — put water in the bottom part.
Place half and half in another saucepan. Add salt and heat to scalding.
Using a wire whisk, in the top pot of a double boiler, whip egg yolks and maple syrup together.. Add a little of the hot half-and-half to temper; stir to blend, then add the rest, little by little, while stirring continuously. Heat over a low flame, stirring constantly with the wire whisk, until the mixture sticks to the metal. Remove from heat, but continue to stir for a minute or two while it cools. Place pan into an ice bath to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Keeps 1 or 2 days in the fridge.
Serve sauce with a warm fruit dessert such as Apple Crisp or Berry Cobbler, or chilled over fresh fruit or fruit-flavored jello.
Makes about 10 fluid ounces (a little more than a cup).
Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at ww.wordsaremyworld.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook as Author