Cooking with Maple Syrup

As I walked away from the Elmira Maple Sugar Festival in Ontario, Canada, the words of the friendly saleswoman still echoed through my mind: “Enjoy our syrup. It’s Ontario’s liquid gold. It’s the best!” She could have been exaggerating, but the aura of the festival and the maple sweets with which I had stuffed myself made her words plausible.

The first time I stepped into a sugar maple forest - with sap dripping into buckets attached to almost every tree - I felt an air of excitement. I became intoxicated with the enticing odor coming from the steaming vats. All the time we stood by the smiling syrup-maker, he kept an eye on the boiling sap, or ‘liquid gold.’ As happens to gold ore in its raw stage, the maple sap was being collected and refined into a valuable commodity right before our eyes.

Ontario, Quèbec, and the northeastern United States have two advantages when it comes to producing maple syrup. First, these areas are home to the top seven species of sugar maple trees, Acer saccharum (the true maple sugar tree). In addition, the cold, harsh winters that plague this section of North America are followed by warm and sunny spring thaws. These ideal weather conditions produce the sweetest and most flavorful maple syrup to be found in any part of the world. Canada accounts for 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup production, with 90 percent of that yield produced in Quèbec.

European settlers to Canada and the northeastern United States learned techniques for harvesting this natural sweet from the Native Americans. In the ensuing years, this practice became a basic part of the settlers’ lives. Until the 19th century, the major source of sugar consumed in these areas came from maple sugar trees.

Although maple syrup is now known primarily as a breakfast delight, the European settlers added it to all kinds of dishes, such as maple-baked beans and maple desserts. Even today, when the sap flows, families and friends in Quebèc gather at the sugar hut, where tables are heavily laden with traditional maple syrup foods. After gorging on these gourmet delights, they gather outside for the usual hot maple taffy, served on a bed of fresh snow. For the true Quèbècois, a visit to the sugar shack in spring remains a type of pilgrimage.

Today, the production of maple syrup uses 21st century technology; however, making the syrup remains basically the same as it has for centuries. The sap is still collected in buckets, but now, a system of plastic tubing transports the sap from the trees to tanks where it is stored for distilling.

The sap’s sugar content usually ranges from 2 to 4 percent, so as much as 30-40 liters of sap must be boiled to produce one liter of syrup. The condensed product contains significant amounts of carbohydrates, potassium, and calcium as well as small amounts of iron and phosphorus. One Tablespoon contains approximately 50 calories. This pure syrup is filtered and sterilized before being poured into containers. Then, it can be used to make maple sugar, maple butter, maple sugar candy, and many other delicious products.

There are many maple syrup production areas throughout Canada and the northeastern United States, and when the sugar sap is flowing, visitors are encouraged to drop by and see them. It is a time for everyone to have fun. Dancing, music, and merrymaking often enhance the hearty foods and friendly spirit that abound in these regions.

Note: For all the following recipes the maple syrup can be increased or decreased according to taste.

Maple Syrup Salad Dressing

(Serves 8)

This tasty dressing, which keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week, can be used with a wide variety of salads.

  • 14 cup maple syrup
  • 14 cup olive oil
  • 14 cup vinegar
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 12 teaspoon prepared mustard

  • 12 teaspoon pepper
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 18 teaspoon cayenne

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Then, pour over salads right before serving. Store leftover dressing in a closed container and refrigerate.

Total calories per 1-cup serving: 88 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: < 1 gram
Sodium: 78 milligrams Fiber: < 1 gram

Sweet Cabbage and Apple Salad

(Serves 6)

Different from ordinary salads, this dish is both succulent and satisfying.

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large apple, cored and finely chopped
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 13cup water
  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat oil in a saucepan and then sautèonions and apples over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring a few times. Serve hot or cold as a salad or entrèe.

Total calories per serving: 136 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 19 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 204 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Baked Beans with Maple Syrup

(Serves 6)

White beans cooked this way with vegetables, herbs, and spices are quite tasty.

The Night Before

  • 12 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups water to cover beans
  • 112 cups white beans

Dissolve baking soda in water. Add beans and allow to soak overnight.

The Night You Prepare The Beans:

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large sweet red peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste, blended with 12 cup water
  • 12 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 12 teaspoon pepper
  • 14 teaspoon cayenne

Drain and rinse the beans. Place beans, along with the fresh water, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour or until beans are half cooked (still semi-hard).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer beans, with their water, to a casserole dish and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and bake for 3-4 hours or until beans are well-cooked, checking occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

Total calories per serving: 280 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 58 grams Protein: 14 grams
Sodium: 513 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams

Lentils with Maple Syrup

(Serves 8)

Simple to prepare, this recipe can be served with cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

  • 112 cup lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced into 12-inch cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste, blended with 12 cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon pepper
  • 14 teaspoon cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees./p>

Place all ingredients in a casserole dish and stir. Cover and bake for 112 hours or until lentils are well-cooked, checking a few times and adding more water if necessary. Serve hot from the casserole dish.

Total calories per serving: 256 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 45 grams Protein: 12 grams
Sodium: 422 milligrams Fiber: 13 grams

Maple Carrots

(Serves 4)

This dish is popular in Morocco, but it is usually made with sugar or honey instead of maple syrup.

  • 4 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced into 18-inch thick rounds
  • Water to cover carrots
  • 14 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 14 teaspoon cumin

In a small non-reactive bowl, combine maple syrup, orange juice, and salt. Set aside.

Place carrots in a mediumsized saucepan, cover with water, and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Drain and stir in maple syrup mixture. Allow to simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place carrots in a serving dish. Sprinkle with ginger and cumin before serving.

Total calories per serving: 105 Fat: < 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 26 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 187 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams

Squash Baked in Maple Syrup

(Serves 6)

Excellent when served with cooked rice or mashed potatoes.

  • 2 pounds peeled acorn squash, sliced into 1-inch slices
  • 12 cup maple syrup<./li>
  • 14 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 112 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 12 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 teaspoon ginger
  • Pinch cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place squash in a shallow casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and then pour over the squash. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour or until squash is wellcooked, turning the squash pieces over once during that time.

Serve hot from the casserole, along with a bit of the liquid.

Total calories per serving: 175 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 590 milligrams Fiber: < 1 gram

Tofu Cream Dessert

(Serves 5)

This dish is simple to prepare and makes a healthy treat.

  • 1 pound soft tofu, drained
  • 12 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 14 teaspoon ground cloves

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy, approximately 5 minutes. Chill and serve with Almond Sauce below, if desired.

Total calories per pancake: 149 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 24 grams Protein: 24 grams
Sodium: 9 milligrams Fiber: < 1 gram

Almond Sauce

(Makes approximately 2 cups or sixteen 2-Tablespoon servings)

This sauce makes a fine replacement for whipping cream. Use it for pies, soy ice cream, and other treats..

  • 112 cups blanched almonds
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 12 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 teaspoon almond extract
  • 14 teaspoon cloves
  • 14 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 4 minutes or until very smooth, adding a little more water if necessary. Store in the refrigerator and then use as a topping for desserts, such as the Tofu Cream Dessert.

Total calories per pancake: 100 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 8 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

Sweet Maple Syrup Balls

(Makes approximately 3 dozen balls)

This type of dessert is prepared in various ways throughout many different countries, especially in Asia.

  • One 114-ounce package dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 214 cups warm water, divided
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 112 cups maple syrup, mixed with 1/2 cup water
  • Approximately 2 cups cooking oil

In a small bowl, dissolve dry yeast and sugar in 14 cup warm water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour in yeast-water mixture and mix well. Add remaining water and then stir until mixture resembles the texture of pancake batter, adding more flour or water if necessary. Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

In a small saucepan, heat maple syrup until warm. Set aside, but keep warm.

Pour oil into a medium saucepan and heat. Drop batter, 1 Tablespoon at a time, into the hot oil to make several balls. Cook over medium heat until balls turn light brown. Remove balls with a slotted spoon and drop into the warm syrup. Repeat until all the batter has been used.

Remove balls from syrup with a slotted spoon, drain, and arrange them on a serving platter. The balls are best served soon after frying.

Note: The fat content of this recipe will vary depending on the type of oil used, cooking temperature and time, and other factors.

Total calories per ball: 77 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 16 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 34 milligrams Fiber: < 1 gram

Maple Syrup Bread Pudding

(Serves 6)

For a sweeter dish, drizzle additional maple syrup to taste on top of the cooked pudding.

  • Nonhydrogenated vegan margarine to prepare casserole dish
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 packed cups small bread cubes
  • 112 cups soymilk
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 14 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 12 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease an 8-inch square casserole or baking dish. Then, combine all remaining ingredients in dish. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 50 minutes or until top lightly browns. Serve hot from the casserole dish.

Total calories per serving: 286 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 56 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 100 milligrams Fiber: 2 grams

Stovetop Rice Pudding

(Serves 6)