Glossary

Maple syrup

Maple syrup

Pronounce it: may-pul sir-rup

The rising spring sap of a number of varieties of maple tree native to northeast America, mainly in Canada but also in such US states as Vermont. The syrup is reduced by boiling in open pans and was widely used by Native Americans long before the arrival of Europeans.

The finished syrup is about 66% sucrose and has a warming and honey-like flavour with overtones and undertones of many other tastes and flavours that make its mouth profile unique. There are few who dislike maple syrup and it can be used in sweet or savoury foods, on pancakes and waffles, on bacon and eggs, bean and other baked or stewed dishes, in and on baking of all kinds, in sweets and puddings of all kinds.

Choose the best

The manpower needed to collect maple syrup and then boil it down combine to make it expensive, thus many products are marketed offering a similar taste and experience for less.

Any product labelled only as maple syrup must be, and will only be, maple syrup. Canada, the US and Vermont state all have slightly different grading systems but let the colour be your guide. Lightness or darkness of colour indicate the lightness or darkness of flavour, in turn reflecting the way maple syrup changes according to the time of harvesting.

If you only like it to drizzle on pancakes and waffles, go for the lighter colours; if you're using it to flavour cakes and muffins, in stews or with bacon and eggs, you might choose a darker, more robust style.

Maple-flavoured syrups, sometimes sold as breakfast or pancake syrups, will be cheaper but made up of a sugar syrup that has been artificially flavoured and coloured.

Other products are made from maple syrup, including maple sugar, which can be used in baking without affecting liquid balances and is excellent to sprinkle on fruits, even such British summer fruits as strawberries and raspberries, or to strew on pears, apples, plums, peaches and nectarines before lightly grilling.

Cinnamon is always a welcome accompaniment to maple syrup.

Store it

A very long life.

Cook it

Heat enhances our mouth’s awareness of sweetness, thus maple syrup’s caressing flavours are enhanced on pancakes and waffles if served warm or hot, but inhibited when poured cold or chilled. Warm maple syrup and melting butter combine to make a taste not possible if either is cold.

To use maple syrup rather than sugar in baking, reduce the amount by ¼ or 25% and slightly reduce any other liquid content. Depending on the grade of syrup used, the finished result will look darker than when using white sugar. You might also substitute only a fraction of the sugar with maple syrup but this can make negligible difference to the finished flavour if using a light syrup.

Maple syrup is an excellent way to flavour icings and frostings, and can be used as a hot drizzle for cakes, bakes and muffins. With or without orange zest, beat it into butter to serve with hot cinnamon scones or muffins, fold it into whipped cream to serve with pies and flans, particularly where chocolate and/or cinnamon are present.

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