Quintessentially Canadian, maple syrup is gaining a reputation as a super food

Spring fever is in the air! While most of us are basking in the warmer weather and enjoying the longer days, the people in Quebec are truly in a sweet and sappy state. This is not surprising since maple syrup season is well underway!

Maple Teriyaki Salmon — Maple syrup is versatile

Maple Teriyaki Salmon — Maple syrup is versatile

Spring fever is in the air! While most of us are basking in the warmer weather and enjoying the longer days, the people in Quebec are truly in a sweet and sappy state. This is not surprising since maple syrup season is well underway!

Quebec churns out 90 per cent of Canadian’s maple syrup. It’s cold and harsh winters makes it ideal weather conditions to produce the sweetest and most flavourful maple syrup. This, combined with the thousands of acres of natural maple forests, has made Québec the number one place on the globe for production of maple syrup.

If you have ever visited Quebec during the sappy season, you may have seen a bucket or two hanging on a tree trunk. Although plastic pipeline is now generally favoured over buckets, some traditionalist and many hobbyist producers still collect with buckets.

When the maple sap is harvested, it is a thin liquid mostly consisting of water. The sap has to be boiled until much of the water has evaporated. Once the sugar content exceeds 67 per cent, the liquid is considered pure maple syrup.

Not only is maple syrup delicious and distinctly Canadian, it is also now being touted as the ultimate super food. It contains similar compounds to those in other new age super foods like tea, berries, red wine and flax seeds.

According to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, there is new research showing that maple syrup has antioxidant properties, which act as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. It has even been found to have a powerful anti-diabetes effect which is unusual for a sweetener, but maple syrup contains enzymes which can help inhibit or slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugar and increase insulin.

This of course is not the green light to totally drench your pancakes and waffles in maple syrup. But, there is more of a motivation to consider natural maple syrup over other sweeteners.

If you are looking for ways for using maple syrup, start with the traditional spring time favourite in Quebec — sugar on snow! Sugar on snow is made by pouring heated pure maple syrup onto packed snow or crushed ice to form a taffy-like candy.

To make your own sugar on snow at home, simply heat the syrup without stirring to 233 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour or drizzle (again without stirring) the syrup immediately over the packed snow or crushed ice to form a thin coating. The taffy is soft at first, so the easiest way to eat it is to wind it up with a popsicle stick and allow to cool (harden) for a few minutes on the ice.

Maple syrup has a lot of flavour and there are many ways to use it in the kitchen in both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s nutty, vanilla and spicy hints can liven up classic recipes.

It makes a great ingredient in glazes, rubs or barbeque sauces for poultry, meat, seafood or vegetables. Its distinct flavour is an excellent complement in vegetable soups like carrot, onion, zucchini or red pepper: just add a few tablespoons before serving or caramelize your vegetables in it with a bit of butter or oil before adding some broth. It also adds a subtle touch of sweetness to a range of dishes, from fresh fruit, cereal and ice cream to tea, coffee, and smoothies.

Because of its unique essence, cocktail connoisseurs also substitute maple syrup instead of simple syrup to achieve an unexpected twist.

Maple syrup is sweeter than regular sugar. You will only want to use about three fourths the amount of sugar called for. You should also slightly reduce the amount of your dominate liquid in the recipe.

Below are some recipes for you to get as “sappy” as you want with one of our country’s heritage foods!

Maple Teriyaki Salmon

4 salmon filets

Sesame seeds

Marinade

3 tbsp red wine

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 1/2 tsp minced ginger root

2 tsp crushed garlic

Combine above marinade ingredients. Place the salmon filets into an 8 X 8 pan. Pour marinade over the filets and let stand for 20 minutes. Remove salmon to a baking dish. Pour marinade into a saucepan. Boil marinade for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Pour cooked marinade over the filets. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake salmon for 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Maple Cornmeal muffins

Makes 9 muffins

1 cup flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup non-fat milk

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

2 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together milk, oil, pure maple syrup and egg. Pour wet ingredients over dry and using a fork, stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Spread batter evenly into pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve immediately with Maple Butter.

Maple Butter

½ cup softened unsalted butter

¼ cup pure maple syrup from Canada

Place ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium until thoroughly combined. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator butter will keep up to 6 weeks.

Oeufs Dans le Sirop d’Erable (Eggs in Maple Syrup)

1 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1/4 tsp salt

Vanilla ice cream (optional, sort of)

Bring the syrup to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan, over medium-high heat. Once the syrup has begun to boil, turn heat to medium-low.In a medium bowl, break the eggs, then scramble them well using either a fork or a whisk. Add salt to the eggs and stir to incorporate. Pour the egg mixture into the simmering syrup and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate the egg into the hot syrup. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit to cool for about 15 minutes.Scoop ice cream in two bowls, divide eggs between the two bowls then spoon some cooking liquid onto the eggs and ice cream.

Makes 2 servings.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.