For over 20 years I lived in Burton Ohio, a sleepy little Northeast Ohio town that's known for apple fritters , maple syrup and Sunday Pancake breakfast's all during the month of March. I used to love to wake up every morning and look out over the hill from my front yard to watch the smoke from the little log sugaring cabin on the square rise up through the sky. They went to work early during those midwinter months, and often times I'd stop at the square before taking Alex to school and we'd eat breakfast and watch the diversity of the farmers driving in with buckets and vats of sap....a wonderful collective undertaking that makes Burton's Maple Syrup such an amazing and delicious labor of love. I still go back whenever I can. There's a always been a debate among my circle of friends and family between Canada,, New Hampshire, Vermont and Burton, Ohio, but when it comes to Maple Syrup I still think that my old town hands down makes the very best....Last year even one of my neighbors got into the act, tapping the trees on our city block and boiling the sap that he got down on his stove. We all got a little bottle of syrup. It was quite extraordinary to walk out my door and see taps on the trees.
Maple syrup is one of those superfoods that's just so delicious that you can hardly believe that it's good for you. It's very high in calories, but supposedly chock full of antioxidants and anti inflammatories. It's even been reputed to be safe to a certain extent for diabetics. I love it because it's one of the original slow foods.. the only alchemy that is needed to turn the sap from the sugar maple into such a luscious product are the magic of heat and time. Maple syrup is one of the 4 ingredients of the traditional Master Cleanse that I and so many others use every spring. Just take a quart of spring water, the juice of one large lemon, several tablespoons of fresh maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of olive oil (I like to use a rosemary or blood orange infused oil) and about 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Put it all into a large container, chill and shake, then sip all day long while eating regular light meals. I know many people who fast on this beverage alone for up to a week, but I've never done it. Those who do report a real boost in their energy but my particular constitution needs some food and I get very energized doing this. Be careful not to drink it for to long a period though as the lemon isn't good long term for the enamel of your teeth.
Maple syrup is also one of the loveliest flavorings that I know. Because it's so sweet it's fairly easy to overdue it, although there are those (My husband!) who would disagree with me. It's wonderful in a marinade for fish or chicken and I love to create salad dressings with maple syrup, walnut oil, a bit of onion and balsamic vinegar. It mixes beautifully with Jim Beams Red Stag Bourbon and barbecue sauce to make a wonderful grill sauce and for someone like me who grew up with a mother who would take every fresh snowfall as an opportunity to make "Sugar on Snow", it's simply the best of childhood memories.I've attached a page from one of Geauga's best Maple Cookbooks that has all four of the time honored childhood syrup recipes. I hope that they bring you as much joy as they did me when I saw them again!
Fast forward to yesterday when I was in the car with Angie, my sons adorable girlfriend. We were talking about food...actually we talk alot food becauses she's a masterful cook. She was describing a wonderful version of Poutine' that she'd had in Montreal last summer and my mouth started to water. For those of you unfamiliar with Poutine' ..it's a classic street food from Quebec that consists of fried potatoes, brown gravy and white cheddar cheese curds all hot and glopped into an oozy, melty mess. It's delicious and I hadn't had it for years. What she described to me wasn't traditionally Poutine' but it sounded wonderful. Potatoes and white cheddar curds covered with a maple syrup and a sort of veloute type gravy. Enough said. I took it one step further and added some chicken sausage, cinnamon, Fines herbes', tons of caramelized onion, fresh parsley and made the gravy from buttermilk, at least 3/4s of a cup of maple syrup and a bit of cornstarch. the whole thing was a mess of white cheddar, potatoes and sausage gravy. It was delicious and needless to say , the men in my life are happy.