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July 19, 2009

Maple syrup (Recipes: maple nut bread and a maple cocktail)

Maplecocktail

Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston.

My dad had a way of making the simplest foods into a celebration.

He spent a lot of his free time in his backyard garden, talking to robins and tilling the soil with his trusty hoe. Each garden season was met with great anticipation: the first rhubarb, green onions, beefsteak tomatoes, basketball-sized cabbage heads -- you name it, he grew it.

For each thing he grew, he created a special ritual to enjoy it, something as simple as walking around with a pocketful of salt so he could eat radishes and cucumbers right out of the garden.

He had his special ways of enjoying other foods, too, like red-skinned peanuts and cold, locally made hot dogs. He was very particular about the hot dogs. He would never eat packaged ones raw, but the ones they made at Tom’s Market he ate by the pound. If I close my eyes, I can still see him sitting at the picnic table, listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio, with a pound of peanuts and a plastic Tupperware tub of hot dogs, watching his garden, and sometimes fiddling with his car.

Another favorite was maple syrup, and of course he created a family ceremony around the annual spring tapping of the sugar maple in our front yard.

The tree didn’t produce enough sap to really make syrup. (It takes about 50 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.) It was more the action of tapping the tree that he loved, and the ceremonial tasting of what he called “maple syrup soup”. The pail would hang on the tree for four or five days, and five or six gallons of sap would flow out. My dad would strain off the debris that fell into the sap pail and boil it for a couple of hours to thicken it to a gallon or so (not as thick as maple syrup).

Then, with his eyes lit up like Christmas, he would produce fresh baked baking powder biscuits. He’d fill our cereal bowls with the syrup "soup", and we would dip the hot biscuits into it.

Maplesyrup2

My sister and I loved it when Dad would pour maple syrup over fresh snow and let it freeze. Sucking on the cold, thin, sweet strips was a sure cure for the cabin fever that set in during long Michigan winters.

Now, though, I prefer to keep maple syrup as a staple in my pantry, and use it in place of sugar. One cup of sugar equals 1-1/2 cups of syrup (add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of maple syrup when you substitute).

I found some great recipe ideas in an old booklet published by the Michigan Maple Syrup Association in 1980. The booklet includes recipes for using maple syrup in cakes, breads, icing, butter, muffins, rolls, custard, cookies, pies, sauce, pudding, baked apples, meats, beans, fondue, dressings, fudge, milkshakes and cocktails -- more than enough reasons to keep maple syrup in the pantry.

Maplebread


MAPLE COCKTAIL
Bored with martinis? Here’s something different.

3/4 oz maple syrup
3/4 oz dry gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz bourbon

Shake over ice and serve.

Maple nut bread

Adapted from the Michigan Maple Syrup Association booklet. Makes a delicious dessert bread, not too sweet. I like it spread with chèvre (goat cheese).

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a mixing bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 cup chopped dried cranberries (original recipe calls for dates) and 1 Tbsp butter. Stir until butter melts. Add 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans).

Sift together 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp baking soda. Stir in 1 cup whole wheat flour.

Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Stir until just dampened. Pour into greased loaf pan (spray with canola spray, or butter). Bake for one hour. Cool before slicing.

[Printer-friendly recipes.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Maple-nut cookie
Maple-glazed salmon salad
Poached pears
Classic pecan pie

Comments

I'm with you on the fabulous qualities of maple syrup. I also love the candy, which is made fresh in Michigan from 100% maple sugar and sold at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. (Not like the mostly non-maple candy that masquerades in the form of light brown maple leaves, but is only a few per cent maple.)

Sarah, you are the maple queen!

I always like a dab of oatmeal in my bowl of maple syrup. Yum Yum!

I live in Michigan and a family friend has been making syrup for a few years. My entire family loves that stuff! I've never thought of using it in any drink other than coffee, but I'll be trying your cocktail soon. Thank you!

Thanks all for the comments I'm happy to hear there are other maple syrup fans. I will be toasting you all later this afternoon with a maple syrup cocktail.

So great to be able to do so many things with maple syrup.

Paz

What wonderful stories and memories of your father!

Lovely images of your father. And I am a huge fan of maple syrup- the best of the vegan sweeteners. Such a New England flavor. I can't wait to try a version of the maple cocktail! Brilliant.

Love that your dad walked around with salt in his pocket for the radishes and cucumbers! :)

thanks, I think dad would get a big kick out of the stories too -

Sarah

I like the idea of a maple syrup cocktail...now you're thinking.

wonderful wonderful wonderful. I just loved this as my dad used to tap the tree's on michigan avenue boil down the sap over a fire of wood in the back yard. We would make candy in molds that were my grandma's. She had a sugar bush in her woods. I'm crying I guess I never appreciated all that my mom and Dad did for me. Sometimes it takes things like like this to wake me up. I am so sad that they are not here to see all the wonders around me.

Thank you,
Jan

nice article- and great way to tie food in with stories, family, memories, etc.
i too am a big fan and user of maple syrup. at times i boil water, add in maple syrup and lemon and a touch of cayenne, drink it hot, refrigertae it and drink it cold . . whenever.
fay

A Canadian household without maple syrup is just not complete. It's truly one of North America's gifts.

I once knew a woman who tapped her trees and, among other things, made her coffee from the fresh, thin sap.

Love these stories, Sarah. Yes, the salt in the pocket detail is a total keeper.

I think you should market that cocktail!
I loved your post - I could see your dad in my head even without meeting him!
I am originally from NH and there is a whole maple syrup industry there as well as throughout New England. It never even occurred to me that this would occur outside of NE! I must get out more!

I thought maple syrup had to be refrigerated? Some expert, please tell me yes or no? Southern Arkansas didn't run to maple trees much! :)

Hey, Sarah, having known your dad I really can appreciate the stories. Brings back a lot of good memories. Of course maple syrup is a staple here in Michigan.

Yum, Sarah! I love maple syrup. I'm going to try your recipes. This is great :)
Cathy

Thanks all -- having written so much about my mom (www.mymotherslegacy.com) it is nice to hear my attempts and breathing life back into dad is coming through in these recipe stories and, yes maple syrup should be refrigerated if it's sitting around for a long time, but I use it a lot so it doesn't sit around for more than a couple of weeks (my secret for sweet tooth). I still consider it a pantry item. And if it does develop a skim of mold I just spoon it off and keep using the syrup. I seem to be ok.

thanks Sarah, really came to life for me, all the senses aroused in my memory...
I have a friend who used maple syrup in a cleansing diet, with lemons, and cayenne pepper...she lost over 25 lbs...so many uses for it...
Steph

Great memories Sarah, thanks for sharing. Makes me think of my grandma and her freezers full of her homemade desserts - cheesecakes and pound cakes were my soft spot - and LONG sundays at the dining room table which I never appreciated as a kid

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