By Kiri Tannenbaum
Photo by: Barry Wong / Getty Images, Inc.
Barry Wong / Getty Images, Inc.
In addition to its natural caramely sweetness, there’s one more reason to pour on the maple syrup: it’s actually good for you. Yes, pure maple syrup is not only high in antioxidants, but every spoonful offers nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. According to Helen Thomas of the New York State Maple Association, maple syrup has a higher concentration of minerals and antioxidants, yet fewer calories than honey.
“Everything the tree filters out from Mother Nature and all of the good minerals, antioxidants, and everything it is doing for the food for the tree, stays in the sugar,” explains Thomas. “[Sap] has complex components that are things we also need to stay healthy, just like the trees.”
Other than syrup, maple comes in several forms such as maple sugar. You probably remember the leaf-shaped molded candy in the souvenir shops you visited on family road trips to New England. Or perhaps you have a maple producer at your local farmers market selling maple cotton candy or spreadable maple cream — a great topper on crackers with sharp cheddar cheese. A new phenomenon is maple water — pure sap as it comes from the tree. Proponents of this beverage say it is a great substitute for energy drinks to be consumed before, during and after workouts.
Other than jazzing up whole grain pancakes and homemade waffles, or taking a sip before you go to the gym, how can you get more maple syrup in your diet? Try using maple syrup as a sweetener for coffee, tea (both hot and iced) in homemade sodas and lemonades. It works great to brighten up roasted autumn veggies like acorn or butternut squash, frozen organic berries, breakfast oatmeal or hot cereal, soups, salmon, chicken, ham, pulled pork, roast turkey, and is a perfect substitute for honey in salad dressings.
You can also use maple sugar in recipes that call for granulated sugar. “If you are using granulated maple sugar while baking,” says Thomas, “it is a 1:1 replacement.” However, the same does not hold true for substituting syrup for the sugar in the ingredients list. “If you use syrup, you need to take into account that you are adding additional liquid,” explains Thomas. “Basically, a cup of maple syrup has a 1/2 cup of water in it. If a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, find the liquids in the recipe, and reduce the liquid, usually water or milk, so you get the same consistency.”
Before grabbing that jug, look to see the label says “pure” maple syrup and be sure what you’ve got is from a single source. A farm’s label will ensure you have an artisan product and not a blended syrup. Maple syrup should be put in the refrigerator or freezer once opened and always kept as cold as possible. As long as it is tightly sealed, it can last for months, and even years. But we doubt it’ll take that long to polish it off. Go ahead and pour it on!
Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.