Updated June 2011.
In the 31 years that Ted and I have shared a life and a home, I have put up with a lot.
Fanatic devotion to the Montreal Canadiens, who've won the Stanley Cup six times and gone to the playoffs in all but five of the remaining years. Celebration of Thanksgiving in October. The occasional "Canada" or maple-leaf-emblazoned t-shirt wandering around the house. The appending of "eh?" to ends of sentences at the most unlikely times, eh?
But the worst, the absolute worst, thing about living with a Canadian is this:
Talk about a clash of cultures. More than three decades, and I still shudder every time he pours syrup on my salt-sprinkled egg-and-matzoh masterpiece.
Of course I am kidding, but not about the fact that only in the home of a Canadian would maple syrup be considered a pantry must-have. Maple syrup comes from the sap of the sugar, black or red maple tree. The trees are tapped and a small funnel is inserted; the sap runs out the funnel into a bucket which hangs on the tree. You can see tapped trees, with their buckets appended, all throughout New England in early spring. A local farmer even taps the trees in our village's historic cemetery.
Initially, the sap is clear and almost tasteless; it needs to be boiled, often inside a specially-built sugaring house, to evaporate the water, leaving behind a viscous liquid, amber in color, with a sugar content of 60 percent. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
The USDA grades maple syrup into four categories:
- Grade A Light Amber, very light in color, mild, delicate maple flavor; usually made earlier in the season when the weather is colder. Best for making maple candy and maple cream.
- Grade A Medium Amber, a bit darker, more maple flavor. The most popular grade of table syrup, usually made after the sugaring season begins to warm, about mid-season.
- Grade A Dark Amber, very dark, with a stronger maple flavor; usually made later in the season as the days get longer and warmer.
- Grade B, sometimes called cooking syrup, made late in the season, very dark, with a very strong maple and caramel flavor; often used for cooking and baking.
Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc. Unopened, it can sit on the cupboard shelf; once you open it, store the syrup in the refrigerator.
Maple glazed salmon salad
A favorite in our Canadian-American household, this recipe works well with honey in place of maple syrup, and mango juice instead of orange juice. Mix and match, according to what's in your pantry. Serves 4.
5 oz baby romaine lettuce leaves
1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1/4 English seedless cucumber, sliced thin
4 oz white or cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced thin
1 lb salmon filet, boned and skin removed
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp maple syrup
Balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
In a large bowl, combine lettuce, cranberries, cucumber and mushrooms, and set aside.
Cut salmon into two-inch chunks, and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp oil in a deep saute pan over low heat, and add the salmon. Stir 2-3 minutes, to "seize" the outside of the fish. Add orange juice, soy and maple syrup, and cook, basting the fish with the liquid, for 5 minutes, until the fish is just cooked but not overdone. Remove fish from the pan and add it to the salad bowl. If necessary, boil down the pan juices to desired consistency, and pour over the salad. If you wish, or if you need more dressing for the salad, add a tablespoon or two of good balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and toss to combine.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Oat and maple syrup scones, from Smitten Kitchen
Cole slaw with maple syrup, from Leite's Culinaria
Banana Nutella and maple syrup bread, from Dhanggit's Kitchen
Barley and spinach fall salad with maple syrup vinaigrette, from eCurry
Crispy buttermilk-cheddar waffles with kielbasa maple syrup, from Vanilla Sugar Blog
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