By Katy Morris
Sweet, golden, pure natural maple syrup. Yum, what could be better? Here in New England, it is prime maple syrup season, and that means you get to dress your waffles, infuse your pound cake and glaze your potatoes with locally made, wholesome maple goodness during peak season here in the Northeast.
How is this stuff made?
Sugar makers prep several months in advance for the “sugaring” season, which runs from early February through late March. Sugar Maple, Red Maple, and Black Maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots just before winter, and then the starch is converted to sugar that turns into sap in the early spring.
At this time, sugar makers drill a hole into the side of the tree to “tap” it and then attach a collection bucket to gather the sap. From there, they filter it and then boil, boil, boil to get rid of most of the water.
A maple tree’s “sap” essentially looks (and actually kind of tastes) like water, but contains about 2% sugar. The best time to “tap” a tree is when nightly temperatures are around 20 degrees and days are around 35-40, which is why the Northeast is a prime spot.
With these temperatures, it creates a bit of pressure within the tree, which then enables the sap to flow from the roots below ground. It can take anywhere from 4-5 days for a single maple tree to produce roughly 40 gallons of sap which will make about a gallon of pure maple syrup. Phew!
How should I store it?
It’s always best to keep pure maple syrup in a dark, cool place (your freezer is perfect – don’t worry, pure maple syrup will not freeze), where it should be good for up to 2 years. When you open it, put it back in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.
What do the various grades mean?
Surprisingly, maple syrup grades do not indicate quality; instead, they stand for the syrup’s color which then denotes how potent the flavor is. Grade A syrups are light and mild (and the most popular), while Grade B syrups are thicker, darker, and have a much more pronounced, hearty, and caramel-like flavor.
Where should I buy locally made syrup?
We recommend staying away from the highly processed, imitation maple syrup you’ll find in most major grocery stores; that stuff is made up of corn syrup with as little as 2% pure maple syrup.
Always be sure to check out your local farmer’s markets for syrup from your area.
We love the Certified Organic Maple Syrup from Doc’s (made in New York, click here to see where to buy); Lamothe’s Sugar House Syrup from Burlington, CT; Hidden Spring’s Organic Maple Syrup from Vermont; and Sweet Wind Farm from East Hartland, CT.
Check out Fairfield County’s most local source, the New Canaan Nature Center. You can even adopt your own tree there.
How should I use maple syrup in recipes?
We are thinking beyond the basic pour over warm waffles or pancakes. Consider using it as a glaze, in your oatmeal, in dressing, breads, baked beans, pies, and so much more.
You can also use it as a substitute in some recipes that call for sugar. In baking, sub roughly ¾ cup pure syrup in place of 1 cup of sugar and reduce the rest of the liquid in the recipe by roughly 3 tablespoons. Be aware that the baked good will brown more quickly.
This snack is extremely addictive!
It is non-dairy, pareve.
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 cup walnuts
- ½ cup real maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/8 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently with a large spoon (or your hands) until nuts are evenly coated.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts in a single layer on sheet.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes. Be sure to stir the nuts every couple of minutes to ensure equal toasting.
- Let cool and enjoy as a snack or salad topping.
Nuts should be completely dry when taken out of the oven.