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Chef's Hat: Maple syrup is a natural, flavorful treasure of the north woods

The richness of syrup makes it a great additive in sauces, baked goods and dressings, and it’s great on vegetables, fish and chicken.

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

The end of February and spiraling into March brings about the harvest of maple sap that is turned into that rich, sweet syrup.

Maple syrup is an all natural and organic product that is made from maple sap and that flows the best when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing.

Maple syrup has fewer calories than corn syrup and is rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. It also contains vitamins B2, B5, B6, niacin, biotin and folic acid, and trace amounts of amino acids - the building blocks of protein.

According to the Farmers' Almanac:

  • A maple tree can yield sap (used for making syrup) for 100 years.
  • A maple tree must be around 45 years old before it is tapped for syrup making.
  • It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.
  • Although maple trees are found in other continents, no other continent’s maples make a syrup as sweet as the sugar maple trees in North America.
  • Frosty nights and warm, sunny days encourage the sap to flow.
  • When buds appear on the trees, in late March or April, the sap turns bitter in flavor.
  • Quebec, Canada, is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup and is responsible for three-quarters of the world’s output of maple syrup.

What makes this syrup so special? Once the sap is boiled down to reduce the water content, it concentrates and caramelizes the sugar. This process produces that rich color and flavor that makes this such a distinctive syrup that is desirable not only as a topping but also a rich ingredient in many recipes.

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Maple syrup is much more versatile than just a sauce slathered onto pancakes or French toast. The richness of it makes it a great additive in sauces, baked goods and dressings, and it’s great on vegetables, fish and chicken.

A simple vinaigrette with maple syrup only requires a few ingredients - some type of vinegar (white, red wine or champagne), olive oil, maple syrup and a bit of salt. This dressing combines well with many types of salads. For an extra kick, try it on a green salad with fruit and fresh mozzarella cheese.

For a twist on plain fried chicken, try maple mustard chicken thighs. The recipe calls for two types of mustard - Dijon and a coarse mustard. So it does require a bit of planning if you don’t have a big selection of mustards in your pantry. The recipe comes together in a few short steps, and these crunchy treats are something the whole family will enjoy.

Maple syrup is not just for breakfast! Pull out that bottle of syrup and use it to sweeten up your lackluster salads and tasteless chicken. Happy Eating!

Pear-Mozzarella Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Chef's Hat salad recipe using maple syrup March 2022
Use maple syrup in this recipe for Pear-Mozzarella Salad with Maple Vinaigrette. (March 2022)
Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bagged salad mix or assorted greens - spinach, romaine - about 3 cups shredded
  • 2 pears, cored and sliced
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans
  • Approximately ½ cup of fresh mozzarella cheese, chunked

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, maple syrup and salt. Set it aside.

Divide the salad greens between 3 plates. Place the sliced pears and cheese on top of the salad greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle the nuts over the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs

glazed-chicken-thighs-shutterstock.jpg
Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

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  • 4 to 6 bone-in chicken thighs (remove the skin if you prefer skinless)
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground garlic or jarred garlic
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Rinse chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the mustards, seasonings and syrup. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Spread about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mustard mixture on each piece of chicken.

Place into the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The chicken pieces should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

If the topping has not become “crusty” after 45 minutes, remove the baking dish from the oven. Turn the oven to broil. Place the chicken back into the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully so the topping gets crunchy but does not burn. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

Related Topics: CHEF'S HATFOODRECIPES
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