If you didn’t allow the snow and ice storm to conjure up the same feelings that might have been stirred had it been Christmas morning, I hope you’ve accepted that it was merely an April 19th surprise to remember forever. And now, while still in awe of it all, we chuckle and wonder if it really did happen because a few mornings later, hardly a single snowflake remained in the backyard where rhubarb was sprouting, or in the woods where maple trees were being tapped for syrup.
Celebrating Wisconsin’s spring wonders suddenly stirred my interest beyond syrups drizzled over pancakes, waffles and French toast to learn more about maple sugar and maple syrup made only in the United States and in parts of Canada. The Algonquins, Ojibways, Crees, and other American Indians of the northeast made maple syrup for centuries before the arrival of European settlers. The Algonquins referred to it as sinzigbuckwud, “drawn-from-the-wood” from trees requiring long periods from below freezing at night to above freezing the following day in New England, parts of Canada, as far west as Wisconsin and Iowa, and even as far south as Virginia. Sugar maple trees growing outside these areas withhold the sweetness of their sap.
It takes 35 to 60 years for a tree to grow to the right size for syrup production. Tapping trees is extremely laborious and cannot be done with machines. During a six week period during March and April, when trees are being tapped, sap can be boiled for a favorite dessert of drizzling syrup onto fresh snow to eat as an icy treat. Also, be aware that cheap imitations are made for everyday use by combining corn syrup and artificial maple syrup. So, if a recipe specifically calls for pure maple syrup, it’s a good idea to keep some on hand. Once opened, it will keep in the refrigerator to use periodically during the long months ahead.
Many syrups on the market work just fine for an endless list of recipes, but again, the best of all is to have pure maple syrup on hand at all times, as called for in this recipe from in my Blue Ribbon Recipe cookbook. Described as being a moist loaf that freezes well, this recipe became a winner for Fran Canfield, Sandwich, New Hampshire, during their Sandwich Fair held every Columbus Day weekend.
Maple apple bread with cider
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ up + 2 tablespoons apple cider
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
¾ cup chopped walnuts
2 ¼ cups unbleached or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set it aside.
Beat eggs in a large bowl until they are slightly thickened and lightened in color. Add maple syrup and beat well. Add butter, cider, and vanilla and continue to beat. Stir in apples and nuts. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice and add to the apple mixture, stirring until just combined. Scrape batter into loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the loaf onto a wire rack and cool it completely.
My grandson Shawn Murray, and his wife, Becky, gave me a book I treasure “For chicken lovers everywhere” humorously and exceptionally penned by FL Fowler. I’ve featured one of his recipes before as one of my own favorites, and here is another one, this time using maple syrup not described as being “perfect”.
Maple-glazed wings with bacon
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 ½ tablespoons rice wine or apple cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
15 whole three-piece chicken wings (about 3 pounds), patted very dry with paper towels
8 strips of bacon
In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, soy sauce, scallions, vinegar, garlic, and pepper and mix well. Add whole chicken wings and toss gently so they are bathed in the heady liquid. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice bacon in half lengthwise to yield long thin ribbons, perfect for restraining your bird. Remove wings from marinade and wipe off any clinging garlic or scallion pieces. Tightly tie up each chicken wing in a bacon ribbon and lay the chicken wings, wing tips up and expectant on a large baking pan. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to bake until golden crisp, another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot, using your hands to devour. Serves 4 to 6
And if you’d like a delicious maple walnut cream pie for dessert, Theresa Brisson, Shorehasn, Vermont, won State Fair American Pie Contests three times with this recipe, found in Volume II of “Crisco’s American Pie Celebration” soft-cover compilation with winning pie recipes from every state in America.
Maple walnut cream pie
Crust: Baked 9-inch pie crust
1 cup pure maple syrup (see: Note)
½ cup milk
2 eggs separated
1 envelope (1 tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon maple flavor or extract
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Garnish, optional, sweetened whipped cream or nondairy whipped topping and chopped walnuts.
For filling: Combine syrup and milk in small saucepan. Cook on low heat just until hot. Do not boil.
Beat egg yolks lightly. Stir small amount hot mixture gradually into egg yolks. Return egg mixture to saucepan. Cook one minute. Dissolve gelatin in warm water. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in dissolved gelatin and maple flavor. Refrigerate until mixture begins to thicken.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into maple mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Fold in nuts. Spoon into baked pie shell. Garnish with whipped cream and nuts, if desired. Refrigerate until firm.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
Note: Substitute maple flavor pancake or waffle syrup, if desired. Food safety experts do not recommend eating uncooked eggs because of the risk of salmonella. To avoid that risk, use pasteurized eggs.