My husband and I make a few gallons of maple syrup every year, enough to encourage kitchen experiments. We put it over ice cream, in hot cereal, even in chai. Syrup flavors baked beans, salad dressing, salmon glaze as well as before- and after-dinner treats. Below you’ll find homemade versions of the value-added items you can purchase at a North Country sugarhouse; shortcuts to a couple of classic time-consuming desserts are here too.
The flavor is akin to old-fashioned cream soda and it’s so easy to make.
2 cups plain seltzer
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Mix gently and serve over ice.
The hardest part about making this snack is not eating the entire batch before you clean up the kitchen.
1 pound cocktail peanuts (about 3 1/2 cups) or roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 cup maple syrup, medium amber or darker
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Put all the nuts in a large bowl and pour maple syrup over them as you stir well to distribute the syrup.
Spread in one layer on sheet pan and bake for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Cool completely before you handle the nuts. Bend the parchment paper and peel it away from the nuts. Break any large pieces into smaller ones. Store in airtight container. Yields about one quart; will keep for a month at room temperature.
Note: You can substitute other nuts, like raw whole almonds, walnuts, macadamias and pecans. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste when you pour on the syrup. Proceed as above.
Can a home cook improve on a classic? Absolutely! This has all the salty, sweet and crunchy attributes of the boxed treat with the prize inside.
1 batch maple peanuts, above
6 cups plain cooked popcorn
1 1/2 cups mini-pretzels
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika, optional
Place popcorn and pretzels in large bowl. Melt butter in maple syrup; add salt, pepper, baking soda and spice. Pour butter/syrup mixture over popcorn and pretzels, distributing thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Grease a deep 13-by-9-inch baking dish well. Pour popcorn and pretzel mixture in pan and bake for 45 minutes, stirring several times to keep from sticking. When completely cool, mix with peanuts. Store in airtight containers; yields about 16 servings.
Note: To make this more colorful and complex, add 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, 1 cup dark chocolate chunks and 1 cup white chocolate chips to the nuts and popcorn after cooking.
A slow cooker is key to this addictive applesauce—set the timer, stir occasionally and it’s done. This freezes well and keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks.
2 1/2 pounds mixed Champlain Valley apples, such as Macoun, Northern Spy, Cortland, Macintosh or other tart cooking apples
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
Peel, core and cut apples into rough chunks. Place in slow cooker. Add syrup and submerge vanilla bean in apples. Set timer on high for 9 hours. When there are 2 hours left on the timer, remove the lid and continue, stirring more frequently. Yields about 6 pints.
There are countless variations on homemade granola, and the beauty of making your own is that you can alter the sweetness, fiber content and flavors. This recipe makes about 20 servings and you can halve it or double it without trouble. I make a batch in a big roasting pan because my visual impairment makes managing single layers on cookie sheets messy. If you go that route, the cooking time will be considerably shorter; pay close attention to avoid burning.
10 cups rolled oats (I use old-fashioned but quick is fine)
1 packed cup shredded coconut
1 cup nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, macadamia or a mix)
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/8 cup chia seed
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a deep roasting pan. Add first 7 ingredients and mix by hand.
Stir the vanilla or cinnamon into the syrup. Pour half over the dry ingredients and bake for 30 minutes. Stir, getting into the corners, and making sure grains on the bottom get syrup. Add remainder of syrup and bake 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally. If your granola is golden, it’s time for it to cool. If it is still looking underdone, bake 15 minutes more. Cool.
Stir 1 1/2 cups of any dried fruit you favor—cranberries, raisins, apricots, dates, apples, blueberries, figs—into cooled granola and store in airtight tin or ziplock bags. Yields about 3 pounds.
No coffee-soaked ladyfingers or slices of poundcake in this light dessert. Use ramekins or pretty glasses. Makes 4 servings and can be doubled.
3/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup granola
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup homemade applesauce
Cinnamon, maple nuts or fresh blackberries for garnish
Mix mascarpone and syrup. Set aside. In each ramekin or glass, place 4 tablespoons granola. Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter over each granola layer and press down with the back of a spoon. Dollop 1/4 cup applesauce on granola layer. Dollop 4 tablespoons mascarpone on top; sprinkle with cinnamon. Refrigerate at least 4 hours so layers settle. Garnish with cinnamon, maple nuts or fresh blackberries.
Maple Butternut Pudding
Easier than crème brûlée, this dessert goes with any cool-season meal.
2 cups cubed raw butternut squash
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup room-temperature mascarpone
1/4 cup dark maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 egg, separated
Maple sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 6 ramekins or custard cups.
In a saucepan, simmer squash cubes in coconut milk for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Pour into mixing bowl, add mascarpone, syrup, salt, bourbon and egg yolk. Beat with mixer until well combined. Whisk egg white until soft peaks form. Fold gently into squash mixture. Fill ramekins 2/3 full; garnish each with a sprinkle of maple sugar. Place into a 9-by-13-inch pan with water about 1 1/2 inches deep, about halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set.