I used to think maple syrup was just for pancakes. How silly of me to have such a limited imagination! Well, I have recently seen the light and discovered that it can also be great as a sweetener in baking. And considering I just bought a huge quart of it, expect to see some more maple-infused baked goods in the near future.
Maple syrup is a natural, unrefined sweetener that comes from the sap of maple trees. The Native Americans were the first to discover its deliciousness and often drank it as a sweet drink or used it in cooking. Nowadays, maple syrup is widely enjoyed and its production is centered in northeastern America. Vermont may be the most famous producer in the U.S. – its state tree is the sugar maple! – but Quebec actually makes more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup. Mmmmm…think of how many pancakes could be slathered with that sticky sweetness.
Maple syrup production farms are called “sugar bushes” or “sugarwoods.” Isn’t that cute? To collect the sap – aka future maple syrup – holes are drilled into maple trees and tubes are inserted into the holes. February and March are usually the best months to do this because the change in temperature from freezing nights to warm days creates pressure in the tree to draw the sap out. The sap then flows into buckets or goes straight through the tubes to the “sugar shack” or “sugar house” – again, awesome name – where the magic really happens. When the sap comes out of the tree, it’s clear and basically tasteless. But in the sugar shack, it’s boiled, the water evaporates, it becomes sweeter and darker and maple syrup is born! It takes about 40 liters of sap – about how much is produced by one tree in 4 to 6 weeks – to make 1 liter of maple syrup.
In the U.S., maple syrup is labeled either Grade A or Grade B. Grade As are the light, medium or dark amber colored maple syrups. These are produced early in the season and have a mild, delicate flavor. Grade Bs are the dark maple syrups. They’re the late bloomers and have a more robust flavor. Nutrition fact of the day! Both kinds are great sources of manganese and zinc.
To substitute maple syrup for sugar, I replace every 1 cup sugar with 3/4 cup maple syrup. I also use a bit less liquid than the recipe calls for since maple syrup adds some of that to the mix. If I’m substituting maple syrup for another liquid sweetener, I go one for one.
And I’ll leave you with this: Every single time I went to type “maple syrup” for this post, I typed “maply syrup.” So it has hereby been renamed in my book.
What’s your favorite recipe that uses maply syrup?