Living in a Maple Wonderland
I would like to like to begin this post by introducing some friends of mine. They go by the screen names Gizmar and Psychgrad. They are the mother and daughter team behind Equal Opportunity Kitchen and my mentors in the Adopt-a Blogger program. Giz and Psychgrad have been blogging together since 2007 and have graciously offered to help me with my blogging. For the last month or so we have been e-mailing each other, checking each others sites out and working on a post together. While checking out their site I came across a couple of posts about Maple syrup. Now Maple syrup is one thing I haven’t tackled ( except if you count pouring it on my pancake with great enthusiasm) but living in Michigan I am aware that there is a fair amount of production of this special product. There are also activities associated with the product. I hope to attend one of these events and eventually tap a tree, boil it down to make syrup and follow up with that pancake thing I mentioned earlier. In any case being right in the middle of Maple syrup season we decided that a post on this subject would be timely. The photos were taken by Psychgrad last season the with recipes from Gizmar and myself.
Long before the first Europeans came to North America the native peoples were making maple syrup. How they happened upon this treasure is the subject of some debate but several native tribes tell that, long ago, pure maple syrup ran from the trees and that one of the gods thought this too easy for the people and that they would take it for granted so he gathered water up into the skies and and poured it onto the trees watering the syrup down into sap. After that the people had to boil the sap in order to make the syrup.
When the Europeans arrived the natives taught them how to take the sap and make syrup from it. The French Canadians began making in the 1600’s with the British colonists in New England following suit. It was an important commodity early on as the cost of sugar (which had to be imported) was prohibitive. As settlements were established in the west the tradition of making maple syrup went too. While Canada produces the most Maple syrup many Northern US states from Maine west to Washington produce maple syrup as well .
The process for making maple syrup is a very time consuming process. First maple trees are “tapped”.
“Tapping” is when a hole is drilled into the maple tree to allow the sap to flow. a spigot is inserted and the sap drips into a container. The sap runs best on days when the nights are cold but the days are mild (February,March and April). Each day the sap is gathered and it’s brought to a central processing point. It is then boiled down to remove the water and concentrate the sugar.
When the sap is collected it contains 97% water and 3% sugar but by the time the process is finished the numbers are reversed and the syrup contains 97% sugar and 3% water.
If you live in the Northern tier of the United States (or in Canada) chances are Maple syrup events are going on in the late winter and early spring. People gather to celebrate the coming of spring and the syrup harvest (Maple syrup is actually the first “crop” of the season). There are an assortment of activities at these festivals. Of course there are sap collecting, syrup making demonstrations and usually a pancake breakfast. These events are great family friendly activities that shouldn’t be missed! Here in Michigan you can find out about Maple syrup events at the Michigan Maple Syrup festival site. For our friends across the river in Ontario you can visit the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers website or Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugarbush. Of course there are several other states that produce Maple syrup and if you live in ( or think you live in) one of those states just Google it on the internet and you will find events in your area!
Even though maple syrup is best known as the topping of choice for pancake it also works great in many other dishes. My friend Giz and I have come up with a couple of recipe that that scream “Maple Syrup! It’s not just for breakfast anymore!”
Grilled Chicken Glazed with Maple Syrup and Whole Grain Mustard
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts ( 5-6 oz)
1/2 cup Liquid Steak Seasoning
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1/2 4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup pure Maple syrup
1/4 cup Whole grain Mustard
- Trim the Chicken breast of any fat or skin.
- Mix together the Steak seasoning, Garlic and oil.
- Marinate the Chicken in the Seasoning mix above for 1 hour.
- In a sauce pan reduce the Maple syrup by 1/3 and stir in the Mustard. Your glaze is done.
- Grill until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
- Glaze your chicken breast on both sides and continue grilling until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Remove from heat and glaze once more if needed.
- You may have notice that I used a store bought steak seasoning (Kroger brand). This is because it work well for my purpose. It’s a very concentrated (liquid) seasoning so it only take an hour or so to marinate. If there isn’t a Kroger store I’m sure they have an equivalent product. If not, or if you choose otherwise you could use and make your own marinade.
- I reduce the syrup a bit to ensure that it doesn’t run off the chicken when I brush it on. It also intensifies the flavor.
- I don’t start glazing until the Chicken is almost done. This prevents the sugar in the maple syrup from Burning.
From Gizmar at Equal Opportunity Kitchen we also have a Maple Salmon recipe:
Maple Glazed Salmon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup light soya sauce
1/4 cup dark rum
3-4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (some use 1 1/2 – I like more)
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
salt and pepper to taste (I eliminate the salt)
1. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil
2. Marinate the fish for 2 hours.
3. Bake at 400 F for 20 min.
Enjoy the taste of Maple syrup this year and support local agriculture!!!!