Up north, March means maple. When the weather begins to dance, warming above freezing during the day and dipping back down at night, the sap begins to run. Sugar bushes, the term for a stand of maple trees, are decked out and dressed with buckets and rubber hosing, all at the ready to usher sap into the sugar house. Maple sap is basically water with a 2% sugar content, which means a lot of boiling; it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup.
The sap is collected and poured into a huge evaporator and boiled for many hours and, depending on the size of the operation, often days or weeks. The steam billows and condensation drips from every surface in the sugar house. Then, slowly, the steam begins to clear and the roar of the boil begins to quiet and the sweet smell of rich syrup begins to fill the room. The syrup is moved to the finishing pan and watched closely, tested with a thermometer and a hydrometer, until it’s finally finished. It’s maple syrup.
If you’re from a syrup-producing area, you know that there’s no alternative to a rich, dark, and sweet maple syrup. Vermont is actually in the process of changing its grading system: Grade A used to be the light and delicate syrup, and Grade B the darker syrup, considered “less pure,” but Vermonters knew that Grade B and its more complex flavor wasn’t lesser, just darker.
Going forward, syrup producers in the area will be reclassifying, and the labels providing more information. Grade A Fancy will now read Grade A: Golden Color With Delicate Taste, and what used to be Grade B and is now Grade A: Dark With a Robust Taste.
Whether you like the delicate taste of lighter syrups or the heavy, complex favor of darker syrups, there’s just nothing better than using that resource to enhance both sweet and savory dishes. These 7 recipes celebrate maple syrup and the changes coming to the industry.
1. Maple Candied Bacon
This is the ultimate salty, sweet, and savory treat. It’s wicked easy and phenomenally delicious. Though you can easily just sit down and snack on these slices of candied bacon from The Clever Carrot all on their own, they can also be broken into pieces and used as a topping for anything you have a craving for.
- 1 pound good-quality bacon, sliced
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wrap a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack.
In a large bowl, add the maple syrup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, and cayenne pepper. Mix well.
Add the bacon to the bowl and toss gently with your hands. Make sure that all of the slices are evenly coated.
Place the bacon in a single layer onto the wire rack.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes and then rotate. The bacon will be look brown at 20 minutes, but will most likely need to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. It should look slightly dark and crispy. If you take it out too soon, the texture will be chewy.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the rack. Don’t let them sit too long, or they will stick.
Once cool enough to handle, you can break the bacon into shards or eat them whole.
Serve at room temperature.
2. Walnut Sage Scones With Brown Butter Maple Glaze
If there’s one thing that pairs better with maple syrup than bacon, it’s the rich, nutty flavor of brown butter. These scones from Food52, balanced with a bit of sage to add a savory, earthy note to the sweetness and richness, are perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee. The method used here is one that almost guarantees flaky biscuits, as long as you can keep the butter cold while you’re working with it. Instead of cutting in chunks of cold butter with a pastry cutter, you grate frozen butter and fold it in to evenly distribute the fat among the flour. After that, you roll it into a log to create layers, then flatten it to create scones. Instant flakiness.
- 1 stick frozen butter, of which you will use 4 tablespoons
- ½ cup toasted walnuts
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt, whole works best
- ½ cup white whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Scant ⅛ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Scant ⅛ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sage, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ⅛ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream, use enough to slightly thin the glaze
Directions: Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grate 4 tablespoons of butter and place in freezer until ready to use.
Whisk milk and yogurt together, set aside.
Mix together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sage. Add frozen grated butter and toss until butter is well coated. Gently stir in milk mixture with a spatula just to combine. Place onto a floured bench and knead a few times until it comes together. Gently press into a ¼-inch-thick square, then fold up long sides in thirds, like folding a letter. Then fold up short sides until you have a small, tall square. Place in freezer for 5 minutes on a floured plate.
Place on floured bench and gently fold or roll into ¼-inch-thick square. Place enough walnuts to generously cover the surface, then press walnuts into the dough so they stick. Gently roll dough into a log. With seam facing down, press into a rectangle about 6 by 4 by 1 inch thick.
Using a floured knife, cut in half, then cut each half into triangles. Place on a lined baking sheet. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until browned. Let cool.
Make the glaze. Melt butter in small saucepan and lightly brown; add maple syrup. It will bubble vigorously; once bubbles have subsided, whisk in confectioners’ sugar. Add enough milk or cream to thin glaze slightly. Drizzle or brush over scones.
3. Maple-Miso Dijon Salmon
Salmon is a fish that can stand up to particularly strong flavors, and this maple-miso combo is perfect. We’re so used to seeing honey dijon as a flavor, but this maple mustard twist is a welcome adaptation. This dish from Closet Cooking is a healthy, easy, and delicious way to use maple syrup in dinner — it’s as simple as mixing the marinade! Serve over mixed greens dressed with additional marinade, but not what the raw fish was soaking in.
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, grated
Marinate the salmon in the mixture of the maple syrup, mustards, miso, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the salmon on a baking dish and bake until the salmon just starts to flake easily, about 10 minutes.
4. Gingerbread Monkey Bread With Creamy Whiskey Maple Glaze
Monkey bread, the dish made up of little balls of dough adhered with a sticky sweet glaze that you pull apart and eat with your fingers, is a major favorite. This version from Whisk Kid uses a bread dough with warm gingerbread spices and molasses, held together with caramelized brown sugar, and coated in a sweet, creamy maple whiskey glaze. It’s a great dish for a party, holiday, or potluck.
- 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup warm water
- 10 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup molasses
- 3¼ cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese, melted
- ⅜ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon whiskey
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
Directions: In a small bowl, combine the yeast, granulated sugar, and warm water. Set aside for about 10 minutes, until the yeast activates and the mixture becomes foamy.
In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter, milk, and molasses. Heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally, and set aside to cool to room temp.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg with the paddle attachment. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer to low speed. While the mixer is running, slowly add the room temperature molasses mixture, then the yeast mixture. When the dough comes together, mix for 7 minutes on medium-low, or until smooth. The dough will be sticky, but if it seems too wet, add up to ¼ cup additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
While the dough kneads, lightly oil a large bowl. Set aside.
After the dough is smooth, turn it onto lightly floured surface and knead for an additional minute by hand to form a smooth ball. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and roll to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it to the surface of the dough, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Generously oil or butter the loaf pan. Put the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Place the brown sugar in another small bowl.
Once the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Cut dough into 64 pieces by cutting 8 rows and 8 columns, then roll the pieces into balls. One at a time, dip the balls in butter, then roll in brown sugar and place in the bundt pan, distributing evenly.
Cover the filled Bundt pan with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, and allow to rise for 1 more hour. The balls should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes but no longer, or you risk sticking. Invert onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Make the glaze by whisking together all the ingredients. Drizzle with glaze and reserve any leftover glaze for dipping.
5. Maple Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
This salad from Naturally Ella is the perfect salad to transition into spring. It’s simple, with only a few ingredients packing in big flavor. The beets are roasted in nutty walnut oil and sweet syrup, giving them a big punch of flavor. Keep in mind that Ella is using baby beets here, so the cooking time and amounts of ingredients are based on that. If you can only find big mature beets, play with ratios until you find what’s right for you.
- Handful of beets
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- Goat cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil, for drizzling
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together oil, maple syrup, and salt. Wash and quarter beets. Toss is oil mixture and place on a baking tray. Roast until soft and tender, which could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on the size of your beets.
Once done, toss together with desired amount of lettuce, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil.
6. Maple and Cardamom Spiced Pears
These pears from GoodLife Eats make for an amazing sweet snack or light dessert. The pears caramelize, adding another layer of flavor to the dark sweetness of the syrup and nuttiness of the pecans. The pears and pecans are doused in warm spices and then served over thick Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.
- 1 large ripe but firm pear, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 handful walnuts or pecan halves, about ¼ cup
- Vanilla-honey Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream
Directions: Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pears, cinnamon, cardamom, and syrup and sauté for 3 minutes, until fragrant and warm. Stir in pecans. Serve warm over yogurt. For dessert, serve on top of vanilla ice cream.
7. Chipotle Maple BBQ Brisket
This brisket is the perfect recipe to make in the non-grilling months. This beef from Leite’s Culinaria is described as “ridiculously compelling,” with the smoky heat of chipotle chiles tempered with the cool sweetness of maple syrup. The rub for this recipe is a homemade one from this recipe, but you can use your favorite barbecue rub if you want. Definitely go for a dark, robust syrup here. Serve this on its own or in tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and sandwiches.
- 1 (3½- to 4-pound) beef brisket
- 2 tablespoons Quito’s Butt Rub, or your favorite barbecue rub
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup chipotle-maple barbecue sauce, plus more for serving
- 1 cup beer
Chipotle-maple barbecue sauce
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons Colman’s dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Directions: First, make the barbecue sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is thick and reduced by about a quarter, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Place the beef in a baking dish and sprinkle it with the Butt Rub.
Stir together the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl and pour it over the brisket, turning it several times to coat it evenly on all sides. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Allow the brisket to sit at room temperature for a few minutes.
Transfer the brisket to a plate, allowing any excess marinade to drip back into the baking dish. Reserve the marinade. Transfer the brisket to the grill or grill pan and cook, turning only once, until slightly charred but not cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side.
Place the seared brisket in a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet and pour the reserved marinade over it. Stir together the barbecue sauce and beer in a small bowl and pour it over the brisket, turning it several times to coat it evenly on all sides. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil or a tight-fitting lid and roast the brisket for 3 to 3.5 hours, until it pulls apart easily with a fork.
Remove the brisket from the oven and let cool slightly. Transfer the brisket to a rimmed cutting board and thinly slice across the grain, or use forks to shred it. Serve the brisket warm, with additional warm barbecue sauce drizzled over the top or served on the table.