Maple Syrup: It’s Not Just for Pancakes!

This is the sugarhouse of my friends, Don and Jodi Gale, Twin Maple Farm in Lincoln, Vermont. (Photo © Earle Ray)

My friends, Don and Jodi Gale’s sugarhouse, Twin Maple Sugarworks, in Lincoln, Vermont. These recipes were made with their syrup! (Photo © Earle Ray)

Springtime in Vermont means a few things: March Madness, mud season, and maple sugaring. “Cold nights and warm days” is the mantra for Vermont sugarmakers for the best conditions to get the sap running. We are fortunate to live in a place where we can go and just pick up some of this “liquid gold” nearby, but I am always looking for ways to use it aside from the usual pancakes, French toast, and warm biscuits and syrup (mmmmmm).

On a walk the other day, I pondered this thought and created two recipes in my head. And both were delicious! Rarely do I cook with carrots, other than sticking them in stirfrys and soups, but I was excited about some colorful carrots I had picked up from Trader Joe’s, so I thought about roasted carrots glazed with maple syrup. I already was thawing a pork tenderloin from the freezer and wondered how I was going to cook it. How about a Dijon-maple sauce to accompany it?

Both of these “recipes,” a word I use lightly since there is hardly any effort, were delicious with a hint of maple. I hear the sap might stop running this week after the string of really warm days we’ve had (finally!). So it will be another year before I will see the smoke in the sky with the promise of a new crop of syrup. But in the meantime, I have enough to keep us happy for the next 12 months!

carrotsMaple Glazed Carrots

5 carrots, peeled and sliced into long match sticks
1 small shallot, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

In a baking dish, add the sliced carrots, shallot, and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and toss to cover. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour or until the carrots look brown. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the maple syrup and stir to coat, turn off the oven, and have them sit there until you’re ready to serve.

pork2Tenderloin with Dijon-Maple Sauce
1 pork tenderloin, 1- 1.25 pounds
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Roast the pork tenderloin in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until done. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients. Warm slowly in a saucepan and top the meat, or serve on the side.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Take Time to Smell the Roses (Or, Time For Someone Else to do the Cooking!)

As I do each April, I will be taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy my birthday month with some rest and relaxation with my girlfriends. I’ll be back and raring to go in May with all new springtime recipes! Let’s hope the weather will say SUMMER!

It’s Sugaring Season!

When the calendar turns to March, that means three things in Vermont: mud season, March madness, and sugaring time. The roads are marked with muddy tracks from the trucks carrying the squatty tanks used for collecting sap, so you know they’ve been up in the muddy hills. Cold nights and warm days is the best recipe for getting the sap running. Although, they’ve said the recent 70-80 degree weather we had for two weeks and nights in the 50s may be trouble for the industry, as many sugar shacks already have closed their doors for the season. But their open house weekend was popular, where tappers still served up sugar on snow (in this case for this winter, probably shaved ice) with a pickle on the side. That is just what we expect this time of year.

I always have a jar of maple syrup in the fridge. I’ll buy a half-gallon which can take months to use, sometimes even more than a year. I will divide it into glass jars, and put the remaining jars in the freezer. It lasts forever and thaws out quickly. And unlike other frozen foods, it loses nothing in the freezing process.

Since I always have maple syrup on hand, I am lucky in that I can add it to most anything; it’s sweetness always lends a distinct flavor. Past recipes include this salmon sauce recipe here and my granola recipe here. But of course, the best way to really get the flavor of the syrup is on pancakes.

I know pancakes lend no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever to your day, they are almost total carbohydrates, but sometimes you just get a craving for them! About once a year I’ll get the urge to whip some up on a lazy Sunday morning, usually in March. The mornings are getting brighter, the birds are chirping, and it’s getting warmer out. I’ve been using the below recipe I found in Cooking Light for years. I always feel a little better with a bit of whole wheat flour combined with the white. So in honor of sugaring season and my nephew’s tenth birthday, whose favorite food is pancakes (we took him to lunch, and his was five silver dollar pancakes!), I thought I’d bring you this recipe for pancakes, for breakfast, brunch, or an upside down day!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes
From Cooking Light, April 2002

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups low-fat buttermilk
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
¾ cup maple syrup
3 Tablespoons butter

1. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, oil, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist.

2. Heat a nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Spoon about ¼ cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Serve with syrup and butter. (Yield: 6 servings (serving side: 2 pancakes, 2 Tablespoons syrup, and 1 ½ teaspoons butter)

• I use this recipe for the pancake recipe only, I don’t normally measure out my maple syrup and butter. I also oil the skillet instead of using cooking spray. It adds more calories, but I don’t use cooking spray on my cookware.
• Buttermilk always comes in a quart container, but it normally takes forever to use up. You can freeze it by the cup in freezer quart bags and just defrost!

Crunchy Maple Granola

Sunday mornings are sacred to me. The only day of the week I don’t awake with an alarm clock, I usually get out of bed between 7 and 8 and slip on my Asics to take my four-mile walk. No need for music on these walks, I am serenaded by the symphony of meadowbirds and the crunch of me feet on the earth. My body knows this road well, so I am able to be inside my head and meditate on  reflections of the week that has passed and the week to come or some problem or situation on which I need clarity. Frequently, I will walk this road in the afternoons, but on Sunday mornings, nary a walker will I pass, save the occasional pickup truck. This early morning is for me and me alone.

Today is Sunday, March 27. The last Sunday of March, at least for another year. I’m still bundled in two layers. No need for coffee before I walk, the western wind from the Adirondacks keeps me awake. The sky is baby blue with no sight of a cloud and the sun is brilliant; I’m able to stop for a moment and drink all that I get from the sun.

March in Vermont also means maple sugaring season. Warm days and cold nights make the sap run and gets the sugar houses going. Just like the return of the Canada geese and the red-winged blackbirds, that first plink in the sap bucket is music to everyone’s ears; it means the end of another winter and the start of spring.

On today’s walk, I thought about what I could make with maple syrup to celebrate this glorious season. This granola recipe is so easy, throw everything into a bowl, mix, and stir mid-way. Plus, you have the added comfort that you know exactly what is going into it; so many granolas on the market are filled with added sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. I’m giving you the original recipe, although I usually halve it for just two. Another note, this recipe originated with my aunt, who gave it to my mom, who gave it to me, so its origins are unknown, although I have seen similar recipes through the years. And it is reflective of the 1970s, dry milk is added, probably for an additional protein. Although I’ve made it without the dry milk, I prefer it included. This is delicious added to yogurt or just in a bowl with a little milk.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes or until done.

In a large bowl, mix:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup dry milk
  • 2 cups almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, or any combination
  • 1 cup coconut or sunflower seeds

Add to dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup maple syrup or honey (both are equally delicious and add their own special flavor)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Vanilla, to taste