In March and April each year, farmers who produce maple syrup are anticipating that the sap from their trees will start to run.
For it to run well, mild days with very cold nights are needed.
In 2012, because there was such a universally mild winter, some areas did not see the level of sap production needed for a good sugaring season. Those who began tapping their trees early were probably still able to get a good yield, however, while others may have halted production completely.
Still, there is a crop this year, if diminished, so we can still look forward to great foods made with this wonderful natural resource.
Pure maple syrup makes an excellent sweetener and is nutritionally higher in value than sugar, so those interested in a healthier, but just as decadent diet, can partake without as much guilt.
Rich in manganese and zinc, maple syrup is lower in sodium and has 15 times more calcium than honey, according to Livestrong.com. Experts there say maple syrup is also a source of niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin B2, folic acid, vitamin B6, biotin and vitamin A. Maple syrup contains none of the additives in other syrups commonly used for pancakes, etc. and may contain antioxidant compounds believed to have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and antibacterial properties.
For more information: http://www.livestrong.com/article/270564-pure-maple-syrup-nutrition/.
The New Hampshire Maple Producers Association cookbook suggests this easy rice pudding recipe:
MAPLE RICE PUDDING
(From Morning Star Maple, Dublin, N.H.)
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs (beaten)
1 cup raisins
1 cup pure maple syrup
Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly. Place in a buttered two-quart baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes or until custard is firm.
This recipe for a main course is from the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association web site (http://www.massmaple.org/recipes.php):
MAPLE MUSTARD SALMON
Salmon fillets for four
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 tbsp. dried dill
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Dijon style mustard
Blend ingredients over low heat until melted together. Grill or broil salmon, basting and turning until flaky and done.
And from www.purecanadamaple.com, this double duty recipe for a healthy salad dressing that can also be used as a marinade.
MAPLE SALAD DRESSING
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup from Canada
2 tablespoons minced chives or fresh herbs (optional)
In a bowl, combine Dijon mustard and wine vinegar or lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Using a fork or whisk, whip the dressing while adding olive oil and maple syrup.
Adjust seasoning and add chives or fresh herbs, such as basil or tarragon, if desired.
Makes about 1/2 cup
Vermont is the highest maple syrup producing state in the United States.
A traditional recipe for the classic treat — Sugar on Snow — comes from www.vermontmaple.org:
Heat syrup (without stirring) to 233 degrees.
Pour or drizzle (again without stirring) the syrup immediately over packed snow or crushed ice to form a thin coating.
This "ice" might be great on a summer day!
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann's local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.