By Jean Redstone
Early spring – late March and the first half of April – is a kind of holiday time of its own in northern portions of the U.S. At least, in those northern portions where the sugar maple trees thrive.
Every year we New Englanders waited for the maple tapping, the running of the sap, the first amber golden harvest to hit local markets. Real maple syrup has a mythic complexity of taste and aroma you will never find in the substitutes sold as pancake or breakfast syrup.
But authentic maple syrup, because of the labor and time to produce, is quite expensive. Every now and then most folks we knew chose to pay the price and then stretched the unrivaled taste of pure syrup by using it as the main ingredient for eagerly-awaited sweet treats.
The first two treats below are from old recipes passed around up North that I found in a recipe book my mom kept. All three desserts are best made with real maple syrup. You can save on the cost by buying Grade B (less refined, stronger flavor) and save Grade A syrup for pancakes and waffles.
MAPLE SYRUP PIE
The best-kept secret in sugar maple country
1 1/2 Tbls butter
2 Tbls flour
2 egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 C maple syrup
1 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 8-inch baked pie shell
whipped cream for topping
Cream the butter and flour in a mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, salt and maple syrup. Cook in a double boiler until mixture is thick. Add vanilla and nuts (if using.) Let cool slightly.
Pour into the pie shell and spoon whipped cream on top to serve.
Simple to make, delicious to munch
1/2 C maple syrup
1/4 C butter
1/2 C sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Bring syrup and butter to a hard boil for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add flour and salt. When well-blended, drop dough onto a greased cookie sheet, 1 tablespoon at a time, 3″ apart (they will spread while baking.). Bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookie colors to the shade of maple sugar. Remove pan from oven and when slightly cool, use a spatula to remove cookies. Makes about a dozen.
MAPLE SYRUP FUDGE
2 C maple syrup
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
3/4 C half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
Combine maple syrup, corn syrup and half and half in 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Place pan over moderate heat; stir constantly until mixture starts to boil. Continue cooking mixture without stirring until it reaches 234 degrees on candy thermometer or until a small amount of syrup forms a soft ball in cold water. Remove pan from heat, do not stir. Let mixture stand until it cools to lukewarm, about 110 to 120 degrees. Beat mixture until it thickens and begins to lose its gloss. Add vanilla and walnuts (if desired). Pour immediately into a buttered 8″x8″x2″ pan. When cool, cut into squares.