If you're the type of person who thinks maple syrup only belongs poured over buttery pancakes or waffles, Mark Hastings, owner of Black Bear Sugarworks Farm Stand in Brattleboro, Vt., wants you expand your syrup palate.
Think beyond breakfast or brunch, and instead use New England's sweet sap to take sauteed Brussel sprouts and bacon to the next level, he says.
"It's quintessentially New England," said Hastings of the dish, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes and is beginner friendly for those new to the kitchen. First, blanch Brussel sprouts for a couple of minutes, then split and then drain them. Turn the stove on to medium-high heat then place the Brussel sprouts into a skillet with no oils, add some pepper and saute them until they begin to caramelize. Next, add bacon to the pan until caramelized and then turn off the heat and add two teaspoons of maple syrup and stir. Hastings notes that he adds a teaspoon of maple syrup for every pound of Brussell sprouts he makes.
Any cured meats go well with maple syrup, according to the owner of the 250-acre farm with 140-acres of sugar maples. Sugarworks Farm products are sold out of a few shops throughout Vermont, such as Hidden Springs Maple in Putney and Vermont Artisans in Brattleboro. Hastings also owns a "maple store," in Brooklyn, N.Y., called, "Corner of Vermont."
Missy Leab from Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock, Mass., suggests that maple syrup is not only tasty and sweet, but is also good for you.
"As more research is being done we are learning that maple syrup is not only a fun and delicious sweetener, but also a healthier alternative to sweeten with," Leab said.
Hastings agrees, comparing the sticky sweet stuff to conventional sugar.
"Maple syrup can be used anywhere that you use white sugar because it's sugar from a tree, one of the healthy forms of sugar," said Hastings.
One easy way to replace sugar with maple syrup is in an Ioka Valley favorite, Rob's Lemonade. Make your favorite lemonade recipe, using water and lemon juice, then instead of a traditional sweetener, add maple syrup. Leab suggests experimenting with different grades of syrup and amounts to get your desired maple/lemon balance.
Maple Party Mix
Courtesy of Missy Leab, Ioka Valley Farm
Instead of buying a store brand snack bag, Leab offers this easy maple recipe to wow guests.
9 oz Cheerios
8 oz pretzels
2 sticks butter
3 cups peanuts
3 cups dark/robust maple syrup
Melt butter and maple syrup, then add peanuts. Mix cereal and pretzels in a separate bowl. Pour mixture over the cereal mix and then stir to coat mixture. Pour onto an oven-safe baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees, stir every 15 minutes until dry. Bake time is approximately 45 minutes.
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Stew
Courtesy of Mark Hastings, owner of Black Bear Sugarworks Farm
A simple recipe to follow and is ready in about 15 minutes.
One head of red cabbage
1/8 cup of maple syrup
1/8 cup of water
2 tablespoons of apple cinnamon vinegar
1 tart apple
First, chop the head of red cabbage and slice coarsely and place the pieces into a sauce pan with no oils. Next core the apple, slice it into quarters and add it to the pan.
Then add maple syrup and water and turn the stove on to medium-high heat and cover it. Should cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, check periodically. When the cabbage has wilted and cooked down, add apple cinnamon vinegar and serve.
Massachusetts Maple Weekend: Celebrate all things maple syrup during the weekend of March 19-20, when more than 40 sugarhouses in Massachusetts will open their doors to the public to learn about and taste their maple syrups. Visit www.massmaple.org/ for locations and more information.
Vermont open house weekend: Plan to round out your spring fun during the first weekend of April, when Vermont sugarhouses open their doors for visitors. April 2 and 3, stop by your favorite sugarhouse and see production in action. Visit vermontmaple.org/ for more information.