There’s no doubt that maple syrup, poured over pancakes or waffles, makes a tasty treat. But the natural delicacy—called “liquid gold” because it takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup—is surprisingly versatile, as these maple syrup recipes prove.
In Vermont, sugaring season spans March and April, and lasts four to six weeks, depending on the weather. A pattern of freezing and thawing—temps in the 40s during the day and below freezing at night—makes the sap flow. In the middle of the season, Vermont sugarhouses welcome visitors for Vermont Maple Open House Weekend, offering tastings, tours and entertainment.
Eric and Laura Sorkin of Runamok started sugaring in 2009 and now tap roughly 81,000 trees and produce about 800 55-gallon barrels of syrup each season. In 2016, the couple launched a retail line of traditional, infused, barrel-aged, and smoked maple syrup. Their products, which include hibiscus, makrut lime, and cardamom varieties, have been featured in Food and Wine, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, and were selected as one of Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things in 2016. For the past four years, Laura, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), has developed recipes for sweet and savory dishes and drinks using Runamok’s syrups.
Runamok Organic Vermont Maple Syrup 2-Packs, $45 on Food52
Palmer’s is a smaller family operation run by David and Michelle Palmer. David’s grandmother Marjorie Palmer, the first Vermont woman inducted into the Maple Hall of Fame, started sugaring during World War II, when the sugar shortage drove industrious Vermonters to make their own sweeteners. Marjorie would invite family and friends to Sugar on Snow parties, named for the treat created by heating maple syrup to 232 degrees, then drizzling it over fresh snow or crushed ice to create a gooey taffy.
David and Michelle have carried on the tradition, with Sugar and Snow parties every Saturday and Sunday during maple season, where hundreds of visitors pack into their sugarhouse for live music, sap boiling demonstrations, and a full menu of maple-inspired food served by a staff of around 10 local teens.
Below, Laura Sorkin and Michelle Palmer share their favorite ideas for cooking with maple, honed from years of hands-on experience with the precious product.
Related Reading: How to Make Infused Maple Syrup
One of Sorkin’s favorite savory sauces that incorporates maple syrup is “ridiculously simple,” she says. Just mix equal parts pure maple syrup (or Runamok’s cardamom-infused version) and white miso paste, which is sweeter and more delicate in flavor than the yellow or red varieties. Together, the ingredients create what Sorkin calles “an umami tsunami” that’s delicious on salmon, turnips, or—her favorite—sea scallops served over a bed of braised Swiss chard.
Palmer’s Sugarhouse invites nearby winery Shelburne Vineyard, as well as local distillers, to set up shop at their Sugar on Snow parties to add to the festive atmosphere. Last maple season, mimosas—made with orange juice, sparkling wine, and a splash of maple—were a big hit. She also adds maple syrup to lemonade and lattes.
In Vermont, local cafes and food co-ops often have maple syrup as a sweetener option for coffee and tea. “I don’t think the rest of the country has figured out how good that is,” says Sorkin. She’s also developed recipes for adult beverages with more complexity, like the Lunar Eclipse, made with rye whiskey, orange juice, smoked maple, and bitters. Another of Sorkin’s favorite cocktails is the Wardrobe Malfunction, made with ginger-infused maple syrup, tequila, guava juice, and lime. Her teenage son created a refreshing non-alcoholic sipper with hibiscus-infused maple, lemon juice, grated ginger, and sparkling water.
Related Reading: 11 Tequila Cocktails That Go Beyond the Margarita
Perk Up Your Protein
During her maple season parties, Palmer says it’s important to provide visitors with food options with protein, amid all the sweet stuff. One humble but delicious way to get a little sustenance during her long days at the sugarhouse are hot dogs soaked and boiled in maple syrup. Palmer prefers the natural Angus beef franks from Vermont’s McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli. She slices them down the middle, puts them in a Crock-Pot with warm maple syrup, then transfers them to a pot of boiling maple syrup until they develop a nice, caramelized crust.
She also finishes chili with maple syrup, to give it that sweet-spicy flavor. Dark Grade A syrup (the USDA moved to a new maple syrup classification system in 2015, doing away with Grade B and Fancy labels) stands up best to meaty dishes, says Palmer.
One of Palmer’s best-selling prepackaged snacks is maple-glazed cashews. She toasts the raw nuts in an oven for 10 minutes at 325 degrees, then pours boiled maple syrup over the top, adds a sprinkle of sea salt, and returns the nuts to the oven for five to seven minutes, stirring throughout to avoid burning. Maple-glazed walnuts are also satisfying snacks. Palmer’s favorite dish from local restaurant Jericho Café & Tavern is a warm kale skillet, which features sautéed kale, roasted beets, maple-glazed walnuts, and goat cheese.
But Watch Out When You Make Dessert
Maple syrup is a good vegan sweetener and often shows up in vegan desserts, but think twice before you add it to flour-based cakes or cookies, says Sorkin. “The maple flavor tends to get absorbed and the extra liquid can throw things off,” she explains. Instead, incorporate maple into glazes and frostings, or use it to top ice cream.
Creamy desserts that incorporate maple are also excellent, she says. On the Runamok website, find recipes for maple pudding, profiteroles stuffed with maple cream, and maple Tiramisu. Pudding Chômeur—a decadent but easy-to-prepare Québécois dish that translates to “Pudding of the Unemployed”—calls for pouring warm maple caramel over homemade biscuit dough, popping in the oven, then finishing with whipped cream and a little more maple caramel for good measure.
Related Video: How to Make Maple Ice Cream
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