I'm hosting foodie family members for the holidays. I know they turn up their noses at anything other than real maple syrup, but it's so expensive. If I spring for some, what can I use it for other than pancakes?
— Veronica M., Ashland
Breakfast aside, some cooks we know use real maple syrup more often than honey.
An entirely natural sweetener, pure maple syrup has fewer calories than honey, sugar and imitation maple (actually flavored corn syrup). Pure maple also has more minerals than honey and a distinctive, earthy sweetness.
Native Americans were the first to use the sap of the sugar, black and red maple trees as food and medicine. Harvesting begins with tapping trees so their sap can run out. Sap emerges as a clear, flavorless liquid that is very low in sugar before boiling to evaporate water and concentrate the flavor. The steep price tag equates to the fact that it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup.
All maple syrups have a grade. "A" has three colors, ranging from very lightest to darkest "amber." The darkest and most strongly flavored "B" grade is used mainly in food processing and cooking.
Store sealed containers of maple syrup in a cool, dry place but refrigerate after opening. If any mold appears in the syrup, even just on the surface, discard it.
Beyond morning pancakes, drizzle maple syrup on oatmeal. Sweeten mashed, cooked sweet potatoes, squash, even pureed vegetable soups with maple syrup.
Combine maple syrup with orange juice, soy sauce or mustard to use as a marinade or glaze for poultry, salmon, ribs or baked tofu. Mix maple syrup with olive oil, pour over cut-up root veggies and roast.
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