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LIFE HACKS More than just pancakes: Eight easy new ways to use maple syrup

Maple syrup is running across the region, but there's far more that the sweet treat can be used for that goes beyond the usual pancakes.
Maple syrup is running across the region, but there's far more that the sweet treat can be used for that goes beyond the usual pancakes.

Cold nights and warmer days create the perfect conditions for producing liquid gold: maple syrup.

Quita Gray and Scott Whitelaw are co-owners of Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown, N.S., located halfway between Truro and Tatamagouche. Typically, each year on the farm, they yield half-a-litre of syrup per tap. And with approximately 2,500 taps, that’s a lot of syrup.

“Maple syrup is about the purest food you can eat from nature,” says Gray.

It’s a locally-sourced sugar that is full of nutritional benefits, including a high level of manganese, and has a low glycemic response.

Pure maple syrup has antimicrobial properties to help the immune system fight off harmful bacteria, plus unique phytonutrients that enhance immunity, says Amy Spurrell, marketing and sales specialist for Hutchinson’s Acres in the Annapolis Valley.

Traditionally, maple sugar was a huge nutritional boost to the Mi'kmaq after the long winter, adds Gray.

It's impossible to say when the peak of the maple syrup season will happen. The season begins when days get longer, the temperatures warm, and the sugar maples wake up, usually around February, explains Gray. That’s when the sap begins to run.

The season ends when the buds swell and the sap no longer makes good syrup. Typically, it's a four- to six-week period of freezing and thawing from February to March, sometimes stretching into April.

“If I had to look back at records, I’d say that mid to end of March is typically what we’d call the peak of the season,” says Gray.

Gray and Spurrell offer these suggestions of ways to enjoy maple syrup that go beyond pouring it over pancakes.


1. Pickling

"All the pickles we have in-house are made using maple syrup, specifically end-of-season syrup, for a bold flavour," says Gray.

The pickling recipe she usually leans on is a basic liquid: 3-2-1 recipe: three parts water, two parts vinegar, one part sugar. In this case, the sugar is maple syrup. The flavourings in the given liquid change with whatever the ingredient being picked, but the base remains the same.

2. Brining

Try brining a turkey or other meat for 24 hours in a maple solution to add a subtle flavour and sweetness. As a bonus, it also adds moisture and tenderness to the final product.

3. Drink it

Drizzle maple syrup in smoothies. It doesn’t take much to add a little flavour and sweetness that elevates the taste.

Or, consider adding a little maple syrup in your coffee or other hot drinks. At the restaurant at Sugar Moon, Gray says that’s the only sweetener they offer for coffee and tea. Many visitors have become hooked on it.

"Maple blends so well," she says.

Regular maple syrup or one of Hutchinson’s pure infused flavours are also great additions to cocktails instead of simple syrups.

A maple tonic is an awesome healthy drink that is great on an empty stomach. To begin your day, combine one-ounce maple syrup, one-ounce lemon juice, hot water, and a dash of cayenne. Pour it over ice for a perfect maple lemonade.

4. Veggie seasoning

Maple and root vegetables work well together. Add a drizzle of maple syrup partway through roasting Brussels sprouts or squash.

5. Baking

Hutchinson’s has maple sugar that can be used in baking.

"We normally suggest splitting whatever measurement of sugar the recipe calls for in half and using half regular white refined sugar and half maple sugar," says Spurrell.

You can also use maple syrup in your baking - just use about half a cup less than the recipe calls for in place of sugar, and reduce your other liquids in the recipe by two to three tablespoons.

6. Sauces and Dressing

Maple syrup is a great ingredient in barbecue sauce, hot sauce, salad dressing, and more.

7. Soup

There are lots of great soup recipes out there that are a combination of maple and different root vegetables like squash, ginger, carrot, and even beet.

8. Ice Cream

"This might not be a topping you normally think of but it is delicious," says Spurrell, especially the flavour-infused products from Hutchinson’s.

Go online: Learn more about maple syrup at sugarmoon.ca or hutchinsonacres.com

Cook this: Maple Brine

According to Chef Mike at Sugar Moon Farm, a maple brine is something everyone can use.

In a large stockpot, combine:

  • 2 cups maple syrup (ideally end of season syrup)
  • 1 cup kosher/sea salt
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 7-8 bay leaves
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 8 litres of water

Bring the mixture to a boil to ensure syrup and salt are dissolved, then cool completely before submerging your meat of choice (or meat substitute) in it.

This is a versatile brine that can be used for any poultry, pork, small wild game, tofu, or even a dense fish like halibut. Keep in mind that most brines can be adapted easily - making a ham? Omit the onion and use an apple. Got some hearty herbs in the garden? Toss them in for a vibrant flavour. The ratio of water, salt, and maple syrup should remain the same, but any other ingredients can be played with.

Lamb Loin Chops with Maple Syrup

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kg Lamb Loin Chop (bone in)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 medium size white onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups water

Marinate lamb loin chops with salt, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Rub seasoning all over lamb (best overnight or two hours in advance).

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack middle position.

In a three-quart, stainless-steel saucier pan, sauté garlic and onions over high heat together with oil. Add lamb and pan-fry to sear in moisture and flavour. Pour in red wine and water. Add herb sprigs and maple syrup.

Braise lamb in oven for approximately three hours or until lamb is tender. A longer time is required if your cut is thick or if you have more meat.

Carefully remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Meat should be fall off the bone tender.

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