Maple syrup has been flowing every spring throughout the centuries. It has been a staple on many American breakfast tables for years. Unfortunately, many Americans settle for something that remotely resembles real maple syrup, maple flavored corn syrup. The real thing is rich in flavor and with all the bad press on corn syrup; I have to believe it’s better for you too.
My father loves the real thing and I grew up eating homemade waffles on Sunday mornings smothered in maple syrup and butter, but that’s about as far as the maple syrup use went in our house. During my cooking experimentation years as a very bored young mother at home, I found many uses for maple syrup in addition to many other unusual food ingredients. Being sort of a weekend naturalist I wanted to find ways to replace table sugar with something that seemed healthier.
As a child I loved to read and read everything I could get my hands on. Some of my favorite books surprised even my mother. I had a baseball thing going in second grade and found super natural books intriguing, but what I really loved where books about nature, Indians and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her writing brought to life the everyday processes of living off the land. Still to this day when someone brings up her name, I instantly remember them pouring maple syrup on the snow and making maple candy as if I was really there.
Today you can find many things “maple flavored,” like; cakes, doughnuts, candy, bacon, and ice cream. The list could go on of all things sweet, but they are nothing like the real thing. I found it really hard to find things made real maple syrup. I have given up my quest and I try to make my own “maplely” things now. Cooking with maple syrup is really quite simple and healthier for you too.
I now use it in salad dressings, BBQ sauces, calico beans, caramelized onions, yogurt, cookies, ice cream grilled salmon, and even on fried chicken. When I change a recipe that uses sugar or corn syrup, I remember to change the liquid content of the recipe to adjust for the amount to moisture maple syrup brings. I also try to pair it with other foods that will compliment the sweet earthy flavor of maple. A few years ago I came across many recipes for waffles and fried chicken. I thought there is now way that’s got to taste good, but when I tried it, I too was amazed and have been touting about its magical powers to anyone who will listen.
Here is one of my favorite recipes using maple syrup. I have been working on writing down many more (I got in a bad habit of memorizing my own recipes)
Minnesota Blueberry Salad w/Maple Dressing
½ cup fruity vinegar (I use pear, apple cider is fine)
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 shallot, minced or puree
1 teaspoon or coarse ground mustard
½ tsp of salt
¾ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup whole milk
½ cup fresh blue berries
½ candied or plain toasted walnuts or almonds
½ thin sliced red onion
1 large head of romaine lettuce torn into bite size pieces
In a large bowl combined vinegar, syrup, mustard, salt, mayo, and milk. Whisk until fully combined. Dressing can be made ahead of time. Store dressing in refrigerator if you are not going to use immediately.
Assemble the lettuce with blueberries, onion slices, and nuts on top. Pour maple dressing over the top and serve immediately.