We love maple syrup, and we have plenty of it, so we have been cooking up a storm in POD 8. As we learned about the sugaring process and helped out in the sugarbush, we were also trying out different recipes, mainly relying on one cookbook: Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (Storey Press, 2001).
Some recipes have been more successful than others. Here is the list:
Day 1 – Indian Pudding. A traditional New England dessert, this might have been a real treat for us 200 years ago. This version is quite luscious, and it smelled particularly good while cooking. Not everyone was a fan of the texture or of the molasses flavor, but it’s something I will make again.
Day 2 – Maple Hot Chocolate. We were busy in the snowy woods this day, so we made a rich hot chocolate that required 2 ounces of chocolate per cup of milk. It was too chocolatey for some, but easily thinned with more milk. The maple part of it was not impressive – a simple teaspoon of syrup in each cup. You couldn’t taste the maple unless you added many more spoonfuls.
Day 3 – Maple Granola. This was a standard granola recipe that uses maple syrup instead of honey. Very tasty. Again, some students thought it could stand to be sweeter, and some were not crazy about the nuts and sunflower seeds. It’s very easy to adjust sweetener and additions to taste in this kind of recipe.
Day 4 – North Country Basting Saucy and Hot&Spicy Kabobs. This was a winner. The basting BBQ sauce was tangy, and with the addition of onions, lemon juice and spice made wonderful kebabs. One student brought in venison, and another brought in shrimp. Five stars from everyone.
Also on Day 4 – Gorp Bars. These were a disappointment. The description indicated a bar that was “moist and chewy” and great for taking on a hike. (Think “good old raisins and peanuts” plus oats.) Instead, it was a bit dry and crumbled easily. I won’t be making this again, but will look for a similar granola bar recipe.
Day 5 – Maple Fudge. Made with maple syrup, sugar, and cream, it’s trickier than you think! Working on a sample batch the day before, I was beating it, and just as it was almost ready, the phone rang. By the time I asked the caller to call back in 10 minutes, the fudge had set. It was too hard to press into the pan, but the chunks and crumbs were delicious. When we tried it again the next day, it seems that we didn’t beat it enough, or else we didn’t get the temperature just right. It never set properly, so we ended up with a tasty maple caramel. My portion is waiting in my freezer, as I’m still trying to figure out how to use it. Perhaps next time it will by “just right.”
Day 6 – Lasagne. This project was leftover from the previous POD. We had already made the sauce, so it just needed an assembling of the pasta and cheeses. However, we added some maple syrup to the sauce so it “counted” as a maple recipe. (Many recipes add sugar to tomato sauce, so why not add maple syrup?)
Day 7 – Maple Vanilla Tapioca. We didn’t have much time for cooking this day, but tapioca is quick and easy. Mix 3 Tbsp of instant tapioca crystals with milk, egg and syrup (instead of sugar.) Let stand 5 minutes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add 1 tsp vanilla, and let stand 20 minutes. Done! It was well received by those who like puddings, the only critique being too much vanilla.
Day 8 – Maple-Orange Wings. This was another disappointment – so bland and flavorless. Looking again at the recipe afterwards, we noticed that it described the flavor as “delicate and subtle”. The wings were soaked in a marinade of orange, buttermilk, cinnamon and maple syrup. Maybe they would have been better cooked on a grill instead of baked. (With our old gas oven, we didn’t have the option of broiling.) We won’t be making them again.
Also on Day 8 – Maple Baked Beans. This was a winner that saved the day. Earlier we had shelled the Vermont cranberry beans that had been drying in the barn all winter. I soaked and cooked the beans, and baked them at home, bringing them in to share. They had just the right mix of sweet and tangy, and the beans themselves had a firm, smooth texture. Everyone loved them and filled up on beans instead of wings.
Day 9 – Maple Bacon and Buttermilk Pancakes. We ended the POD with traditional pancakes and syrup and with bacon glazed with syrup. Yum. We reviewed at least four different buttermilk pancake recipes before deciding (by majority vote) on the NY Times version. “Not as good as the Joy of Cooking recipe”, said Tom, “but still a good choice!”
My thoughts on the experience? If I were doing it again, I would not rely on this one cookbook. I trusted it too much, and we could have done better. Instead, I would research the best recipes and reviews from a number of (mainly online) sources, keeping the best of what we have discovered. I am already trying out more maple recipes at home. (This week I made Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns – yum.) Also, learning from our experiments, I am now more comfortable substituting maple syrup for white sugar in a variety of recipes (1 for 1 volume, but reduce liquid).
Let the sap run on….