March 19, 2012

Maple Syrup Time

Warm days and cool nights are the perfect recipe for making maple syrup. So as you can imagine, the maples around here have been tapped and the sugar houses are in full swing. The state of New Hampshire might not be as popular as Vermont when it comes to maple syrup, but we hold our own.

Here's how it works: Maple trees (sugar, red, and black varieties) are "tapped" by drilling a hole into its side and then a spout or spicket is inserted. A bucket is attached to catch all the sap that starts to run freely as the atmospheric pressure changes each day. A series of tubes and hoses may be used to direct the sap as well. Once it's collected, as much as 75% of the water is removed and then the sap is boiled down into syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of syrup which is why it's more expensive than any maple product such as the syrup you find in the grocery store, which really doesn't contain much (if any) real maple syrup.

Here are a few facts about New Hampshire maple syrup and syrup in general:
  • There are approximately 87 working sugar houses in this state according to the NH Maple Producers Association.
  • The season can last anywhere from 4-6 weeks from mid-February to mid-April depending on the weather.
  • There are four grades: B, A Dark Amber, B Medium Amber (typically used on pancakes etc.), and A Light Amber. Extra Light and Grade A typically have a milder flavor than Grade B. (Vermont and New Hampshire differ slightly in their grading system.)
  • According to a University of Rhode Island study, drizzling maple syrup on your oatmeal may help prevent inflammatory diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's.
  • Maple syrup is loaded with polyphenols, plant-based compounds that work as antioxidants, which are also natural anti-agers.
  • A study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit found that if you replace sugar with the same amount of maple syrup you can help ward off illness because syrup contains essential nutrients like zinc and manganese. Zinc keeps your level of white blood cells up, which is crucial for increasing your resistance to illness, and manganese protects immune cells from inflammation and damage.
  • You can even add maple syrup to your beauty regimen: To help with fine lines, stir together 1 Tbsp warm milk and 1 Tbsp maple syrup. Add 3 Tbsp of finely ground oats and stir again. Massage gently onto your face and leave it on for up to 20 minutes. Rinse and follow with moisturizer.
  • Consider swapping in maple syrup for sugar. It's less likely to cause indigestion, gas, and bloating compared with processed sweeteners. Add it to pound cake, butter cookie and coffee cake recipes which complement syrup's woodsy flavor.
And because it's so delicious, try this:
  • Vinaigrette: Whisk 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp each of maple syrup and red wine vinegar, and 1 Tsp of Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
  • As a glaze: Mix 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, and a pinch of red pepper for chicken, pork, or salmon.
  • Marinade: Combine 1 Tbsp each of maple syrup and olive oil over carrots or sweet potatoes.
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