The Sap of Happiness: Maple Syrup
By Chelsea Fisher
The big price difference between ordinary pancake and waffle syrup and pure maple syrup is no artificial mark up. The inexpensive version is mostly high fructose corn syrup with artificial flavoring, and only about two percent maple syrup. The pure stuff is the product of a tradition that dates back to colonial times, a process that boils the sap that rises and falls in maple trees when the conditions are just right (cold nights, warm days) to get a thick dark, tasty syrup.
In Korea, it’s a tradition to drink maple sap straight from the tree. They believe it’s a healing elixir, and a nectar that’s good for the bones. As it happens, the Korean folk ideas are more than just lore. Real maple syrup contains trace amounts of iron and calcium, and is a great source of manganese — all of which are very important nutrients for bone health. Sorry Aunt Jemima, but we’ll stick with the real thing.
Since maple syrup is much sweeter than typical table sugar, a little bit goes a long way. It may be a natural product, but it should still be used in moderation. The taste is so good that holding back can be a real challenge, but we know you can do it.
Pure maple syrup has a shelf life of up to two years before it’s opened, but after you crack the seal make sure to keep it refrigerated. Unlike honey, which lasts indefinitely, once opened, maple syrup will be unusable after about a year.
There are four main types of pure maple syrup. Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. For Grade A the difference from light to dark is the intensity of the maple flavor. Grade A Light and Medium are great for serving on pancakes, while Dark is usually reserved for baking, but can also be used as table syrup. Grade B is almost always used in cooking and baking, but if you like a rich taste there’s no problem with throwing a little bit of that on your pancakes or oatmeal. They all have one common trait — amazing taste.
Maple syrup can be a great substitute for granulated sugar in baking recipes, but make sure to use ¾ cup of maple syrup as the equivalent of one cup of sugar. Also, because using syrup instead of sugar adds liquid, reduce the primary liquid in the recipe by three tablespoons for every cup of maple syrup used. Also remember that the maple syrup may cause the baked goods to have a slight amber color. If you’re replacing honey with maple syrup, just use the same amount of syrup as honey.
To name just a few of the recipes where maple syrup is a nice addition, we use it in our Microwave Strawberry Compote, our Pumpkin Pie Custard, and drizzled atop our Simple Baked Apples. Maple syrup is also a quick and easy way to compliment the earthy flavor of winter squash. Just bake the squash in the oven and mash in a tiny bit of maple syrup after it’s cooked for surprisingly simple and tasty side dish.