A sweet surprise about maple syrup

Who knew that maple syrup could be a morning healthy boost?

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island recently analyzed maple syrup and found that it contains 54 polyphenols, healthy compounds that can protect against cancer and diabetes.

But be sure to read the labels on the maple products. Only the real deal has these disease fighters.

Products labeled “pancake syrup” are made from corn syrup and other sweeteners and flavored to taste like the stuff from trees.

Even if healthier than previously thought, maple syrup is still a high-calorie sweetener, so drizzle it, don’t pour it on.

Maple syrup is produced mainly in eastern Canada and in the northeastern United States. It is a boiled-down sap that is tapped from maple trees.

Though we are most familiar with it as a topping for waffles and pancakes, it is not just for breakfast. Unlike cheaper pancake syrups, many of which contain no maple at all, pure maple syrup has a distinctive earthy flavor that is a great complement to many savory foods.

Maple syrup comes in four USDA grades:

  • Grade A light amber, a delicate syrup, graded “fancy” in Vermont;
  • Grade A medium amber, the most common table syrup;
  • Grade A dark amber, darker in color; and
  • Grade B, a dark syrup produced later in the season and stronger in flavor.

For cooking, stick to the darker grades, as they will retain their flavor. When eating the syrup straight, choose whichever intensity of maple flavor you prefer.

For the best flavor, check the label to be sure that maple syrup is the only ingredient. Terms such as “all-natural” are basically meaningless.

An unopened bottle of maple syrup will last for a year in the pantry. After opening, refrigerate it for up to six months or transfer the syrup to plastic containers and freeze indefinitely. The syrup will get thicker but will return to normal when it warms up.

Some uses for that bottle of maple syrup are:

  • In a vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon each of maple syrup and red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
  • On roasted vegetables: Roast 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes or carrots, then toss with 2 finely chopped scallions and 1 tablespoon each maple syrup and olive oil.
  • As a glaze: Whisk together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Use it to baste when broiling fish or chicken breasts or when grilling pork chops, salmon or chicken pieces.
  • In whipped cream: Using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup heavy cream and 6 tablespoons maple syrup until soft peaks form.
  • In soda: For a homemade fizzy soda, stir 2 tablespoons maple syrup into 2 cups club soda and pour over ice. This tastes a bit like cream soda.
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The Dashboard Magazine, given to me by Carol Deatrick of Florida, has a recipe for a spread to put on corn meal muffins, French toast or waffles.

Maple Butter

1 1/2 sticks softened, unsalted butter

3 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably grade B

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and syrup until creamy. To store, keep tightly covered in the refrigerator.

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This is maple flavored parfait, using maple syrup rather than sugar. It is from the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.

Maple Parfait

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 egg yolks, beaten until very light

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

1 cup whipping cream, whipped stiff

Boil maple syrup for 1 minute and cool. Slowly pour syrup over the beaten eggs and cook in a double boiler until mixture thickens. Cool and add the flavoring of your choice. Fold in cream that has been beaten until it stands up in stiff peaks. Put in freezer tray and freeze for three to four hours. This can be layered with whipped topping and crushed nuts. Makes six servings.

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Taste of Home Magazine has a recipe for a cookie bar using cinnamon baking chips. Hopefully, this type of chip can be purchased in local stores, or I would suggest butterscotch chips.


Cinnamon Chip Bars

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cinnamon baking chips

1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar


1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in cinnamon chips. Spread into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. In a small bowl, mix all glaze ingredients until smooth and drizzle over top. Cut into bars. Store in an airtight container.

Note: To make the cinnamon sugar, mix granulated sugar with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

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This is another Taste of Home recipe, but maple flavoring is used rather than maple syrup.

Marvelous Maple Fudge

1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter, divided

2 cups packed brown sugar

5-ounce can evaporated milk

1 teaspoon maple flavoring

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Line an 8-inch square pan with foil; grease foil with 1 teaspoon butter. In a large saucepan, combine remaining butter, brown sugar and milk. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in maple flavoring, vanilla and salt. Add confectioners’ sugar, slowly. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Spread into prepared pan and cool completely. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil; cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.

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This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It is for a side dish that is colorful with carrots, sweet potatoes and dried apricots then flavored with maple syrup and orange juice.

Maple-Orange Sweet Potatoes and Carrots

16-ounce package baby carrots, washed

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup snipped dried apricots

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Lightly coat the inside of a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add carrots. Top with sweet potatoes and dried apricots. In a small bowl, stir together maple syrup, orange juice concentrate, water, melted butter, salt, white pepper and cinnamon. Pour over sweet potato mixture in cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high setting for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon. Makes 10 side dish servings, plenty for a company dinner. This is 194 calories per 2/3 cup serving, with 3 grams fat.

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Okay, here comes a wonderful dessert if you take a liking to cheesecake. It is a maple and pumpkin cheesecake that is rather high in calories, 447, but well worth a small slice and freeze a portion for another day. It is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, a gift from Jim and Ann Marie Monogioudis for our 50th wedding anniversary.

Maple and Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup butter melted

Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine finely crushed graham crackers, granulated sugar and melted butter. Press crumb mixture onto the bottom and 1 1/2 inches up the sides of an ungreased 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the filling, in an extra large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. Beat cream cheese mixture until well combined. Fold in eggs. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan. Place spring form in a shallow baking pan using a water bath method to keep the cheesecake creamy and smooth, if desired.

To do this, place crust-lined pan on a double layer of 18- by 12-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bring edges of foil up and mold around pan sides to form a watertight seal. Pour filling into the prepared pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 60 to 70 minutes. When done, cheesecake edges will be set, but center will jiggle slightly when pan is gently shaken. Turn oven off and allow cheesecake to sit in the oven for 1 hour.

This is a suggestion for a creamy cheesecake, but it can be baked without the hot water bath in a 325 degree oven for 60 to 70 minutes or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Using a small thin knife, loosen crust from sides of springform pan. Cool for 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan. Cool for 1 hour. Cover and chill for at least 4 or up to 24 hours. To serve, drizzle caramel sauce over top of cheesecake.

This can be covered with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for up to three days. Or it can be cut into slices or left whole and placed in a freezer-safe bag or a plastic container and frozen for up to a month for the whole cheesecake or two weeks for the pieces.

To thaw, loosen wrapping and thaw a whole cheesecake in the refrigerator for 24 hours or slices at room temperature for 30 minutes. This recipe makes 12 slices.