National Maple Syrup Day

It’s National Maple Syrup Day and we’re looking at some facts about this sweet addition to any recipe!

Production

The thick sap from maple trees is harvested in the spring, when warmer days and colder nights help stimulate the flow of sap. Once the trees start to bud, the sap becomes bitter, so harvest usually only lasts about 6 weeks.

The sap is boiled to remove excess water, becoming the dense and sweet maple syrup we love. Because the sap is boiled down, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to create 1 gallon of maple syrup! And each maple tree can produce only up to 12 gallons of sap each season. So, it’s no easy feat making maple syrup.

Grading

Not all maple syrups taste the same, so USDA created a voluntary grading system that was updated in 2015 so that all maple syrups available in grocery stores are Grade A and classified based on color and taste:

  • Golden Color and Delicate Taste – This is the first syrup that is tapped during harvest, giving it a light color and mild taste and great for topping on pancakes or ice cream.
  • Amber Color and Rich Taste – A full-bodied, medium taste, perfect for adding to tea.
  • Dark Color and Robust Taste – A robust, stronger taste, great for glazed dishes.
  • Very Dark Color and Strong Taste – The last to be harvested, this syrup is almost black in color and is a good substitute for molasses in baked goods.

Nutrition

There are no additives or preservatives used in maple syrup and it also provides antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. But, maple syrup is still a source of added sugar (~14g per tablespoon), so keep an eye on portions. Of course, I had to mention the Master Cleanse, a well-known “detox” made from cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice. By following this detox for several days, the GI system is expected to rest and become healthier, but there is little scientific evidence to back it up and sustained weight loss has not been reported.

Cooking

One of my favorite ways to use maple syrup is a marinade, like this one for chicken. Make sure you store it in your refrigerator after opening to keep it fresh!

 INGREDIENTS

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (I suggest Grade A Dark)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, syrup, and vinegar.
  3. Place chicken breasts into 9×13 lined baking dish. Season with salt & lots of pepper.
  4. Pour mustard mixture over chicken. Make sure each breast is coated. Put some more pepper on, if you please.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
  6. Season with fresh rosemary.
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