We all know that maple syrup is fabulous in all sorts of sweet and savory dishes. But guess what? Did you know that it is good for you, too? According to the fine folks at Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, who very generously sent us superior samples to try (yum!), not only does maple syrup have greater nutritional value than sugar or honey, but its health benefits are more comprehensive than you might expect. (To learn more, and judge for yourself, check out their website.) But, it’s got to be pure maple syrup—not that “maple-flavored,” pancake syrup stuff lining the supermarket shelves that’s usually nothing more than a combination of high fructose corn syrup and artificial maple extract. Pure maple syrup is the real deal…real good…and 100 percent natural.
Most believe that it was the Native American Indians who taught the Colonists how to tap the maple tree for its sap, boil it down to a “sweetwater,” and continue to cook until it’s reduced to pure, unadulterated maple syrup. Generally, the darker the syrup, the more pronounced the maple flavor, which is why I love the intense flavor of Grade B the best.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to tap into that sweet flavor!
1. You betcha we’re pouring it over a big, fluffy stack of pancakes (or waffles).
2. But why not amp up the maple flavor even more and make some Maple-Almond Butter to go with them? Using an electric mixer, beat together one stick of unsalted butter (make sure it’s room temperature and very soft), 1/4 cup maple syrup and 3 tablespoons toasted, cooled and finely chopped almonds. Place on the end of a piece of parchment paper, tuck in the sides of the paper and roll into a log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Drizzle a little maple syrup over a bowl of plain Greek yogurt mixed in with some homemade granola and fresh strawberries or blueberries. What a way to start the day!
4. Maple-roasted bacon. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a wire cooling rack in a large rimmed baking sheet. Place the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Roast until the bacon begins to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top of each slice. Bake for another 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and grind a little pepper over the top of each slice. Call me when it’s ready.
6. Make some Maple-Chile Popcorn. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray (or butter). Place 8 cups of popped corn in a large glass bowl that’s been coated with cooking spray. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/2 cup maple syrup with 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Stir in 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile pepper and 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and stir until just combined. Cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Slowly drizzle the syrup over the popcorn, stirring to evenly coat (a rubber spatula works great here). Spread popcorn in an even layer in the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Commence some serious munching.
7. Turkey–it’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore. Check out this gorgeous mahogany-lacquered bird, thanks to maple syrup.
8. Swirl some maple goodness in your oatmeal. Grind a little fresh nutmeg on top; sprinkle over a little ground cinnamon and serve with whole wheat toast for a delicious, heart-healthy breakfast.
9. Save room for some pie. Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. Just tell yourself, “I’ll only eat one slice.” Repeat as necessary.
10. And a to-die-for pasta: Sweet Potato Ravioli with Maple, Brown Butter and Sage. That recipe’s coming up next…so, stay tuned!
Here’s a little maple syrup trivia for you: It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup.