Mainers don’t know how lucky they are when it comes to maple syrup. In other parts of the country, a tiny pint of the sweet, golden liquid costs a pretty penny. But in New England, maple syrup is plentiful and nowhere near as expensive.
Maine maple syrup production was around 310,000 gallons last year. Maine ranked second in production after Vermont, making about 27 percent of all U.S. syrup, according to the New England Agriculture Statistics Service.
Syrup appears on the table at diners and brunch spots. You can buy it at farm stands or the supermarket. What’s more, you can actually visit the places where the syrup is made, and there’s no better day to do that than on Maine Maple Sunday, set this year for Sunday, March 27. Sugarhouses all across the state will open their doors, and their maple tree groves, to the general public for educational tours, tastings and children’s activities. A full list of participating sugarhouses can be found at mainemapleproducers.com.
According to Eric Ellis, director of the Maine Maple Producer’s Association, the season is coming along nicely and in a normal fashion.
“We’re about a week into the season, and it seems to be going fairly well. Coming off last season, which was at least a full three weeks early, this year it’s back to normal,” said Ellis, whose sugarhouse, Maine Maple Products, is based in Madison. “The extended forecast looks favorable, and everyone’s fairly optimistic.”
Ellis sells a cookbook titled “Maine Maple: Beyond Pancakes,” written by Elizabeth Gamage Hodgkins, which features more than 150 recipes that go far beyond breakfast. Ellis regularly has customers who ask for maple recipes, and often he directs them to Hodgkins’ book.
One recipe that’s featured on the Maine Maple Producers website is for Downeast Company Coleslaw, which features a tangy twist on traditional slaw that calls for whole-milk yogurt and maple syrup, instead of mayonnaise and sugar, along with apples and green pepper.
Jo-Ann Merrifield of Merrifield Farm in Gorham, a sugarhouse that also is participating in Maine Maple Sunday, shared with us some treats from her collection of cookbooks that feature maple recipes.
One of those recipes is for switchell, which originally was shared by Mitchell and Savage Maple Farm in Bowdoin. Switchell is a very old New England beverage also known as Haymaker’s Punch, which was served to fieldhands in the 19th century to quench their thirst.
Though it also can be made with brown sugar or molasses, maple syrup gives it a lighter flavor. It’s strong, gingery stuff, but adding berries or cut up citrus wedges can soften the powerful flavor — and it also can be a great base for a rum punch.
Bangor Daily News readers have their own favorite maple recipes as well. Deb Neuman, who is well-known to Mainers as the host of Back to Business radio at 2 p.m. Sundays on WVOM 103.9 FM in Bangor, shared with us her family recipe for Maple Mousse.
“This recipe has been a Neuman family holiday tradition for generations. It requires a little effort, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth maple magic,” said Neuman. “This recipe makes enough to serve 4 to 8 people. Servings should be small, as it is very rich. Try pairing it with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.”
Maple just as easily can be a savory flavor, especially when paired with bacon. Maple and bacon seemingly go hand in hand, and making your own maple roasted bacon is easy and well worth the effort. Baked or mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup are a common treat on dinner tables, but for a unique, decadent presentation, try twice baking them with sour cream, butter, a bit of nutmeg and paprika and, of course, maple syrup. Top with the maple roasted bacon, and you’ve got a maple-flavored side dish that can stand on its own.
• • •
Mom’s Maple Mousse
1 ¼ cup Maine Made maple syrup
1 tablespoon gelatin
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: Kahlua, and/or chocolate shavings
In a heavy saucepan bring the maple syrup to boil for 1 minute. Keep a close eye on it as it boils fast. Beat 4 egg yolks until thick and fluffy and SLOWLY pour hot syrup into the yolks, beating constantly. Cook the mixture on top of a double boiler over hot water, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon (add splash of Kahlua if you wish). Soften 1 teaspoon gelatin in 3 tablespoons of cold water for 3 minutes, and add it to the hot syrup mixture stirring until gelatin is dissolved to avoid lumps (approximately 3 to 4 minutes). Remove mixture from heat and let it cool down until it is syrupy (you can place pan in fridge for a while). Once cooled, fold in 1 cup whipped heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour into pretty glass serving bowl and chill for at least 2 hours. Garnish with shaved chocolate before serving (if you wish).
Recipe courtesy of Deb Neuman
• • •
Downeast Company Coleslaw
6 to 8 servings
7 cups finely shredded cabbage (about half a 2-pound head)
2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and shredded
1 small green pepper, chopped fine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3 or 4 tablespoons Maine maple syrup
½ cup whole milk yogurt
In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the dressing ingredients in the order listed, using a wire whip to blend the mixture thoroughly. Stir in the vegetables, making sure they are evenly combined with each other and with the dressing. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, so the flavor of the dressing has time to penetrate.
Recipe courtesy of Maine Maple Producers
• • •
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup pure Maine maple syrup
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
Mix maple syrup, cider vinegar and ginger in small amount of boiling hot water to blend. Add
2 quarts cold water. Chill and quench your thirst.
Recipe courtesy of Mitchell and Savage Maple Farm and Merrifield Farm
Twice-baked Maple Sweet Potatoes with Maple Roasted Bacon
4 medium to large sweet potatoes
1 cup sour cream
½ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper
8 slices thick-cut bacon
1 or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
To make potatoes, pierce skin with fork and bake in 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. While potatoes are cooling, turn the oven up to 400 and lay the bacon out on a baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until mostly cooked, then remove from oven. Remove some of the excess bacon fat from the pan, but leave a small amount to keep it sizzling. Brush both sides of the bacon with syrup, then return to oven to caramelize for another five minutes. Remove from oven, cool, and crumble into small pieces.
Slice each potato in half, and then remove the flesh carefully so skins remain intact. Mash potato until creamy, then add the sour cream, butter, maple syrup, nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper, combining thoroughly. Fill the potato skins with the mixture, place skins on a greased pan and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, add bacon to the top and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve with extra maple syrup for drizzling.