• Sun. Aug 1st, 2021

Home & Garden: March Maple Madness


Mar 18, 2021 , , , ,
The old saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” is pretty accurate, according to meteorologists, especially if you live south of the Dakotas and east of Wyoming. The month of March usually starts out feeling winter-level cold and, despite a few semi-warm days, remains cold for most of the month. On average, only states parallel to central Texas or farther south won’t continue to have days below the freezing mark during March. Bad news for those of us who can’t wait to be outside in flip-flops and shirtsleeves, digging in the mud, but good news for maple syrup makers, who need days in the 40’s and nights below freezing for sap runs.

Last year the U.S. broke a syrup production record, according to the USDA annual syrup production survey, as sugarmakers made 4.372 million gallons of syrup. Leading the way was Vermont, which had its all-time best year with 2.22 million gallons produced. New York came in second with 804,000 gallons made, and Maine was third with 590,000 gallons. Despite a good syrup crop, traditional Maine Maple Weekend events were canceled last year due to COVID restrictions. This year the news is sweeter: on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28, nearly 80 sugarhouses will be open to the public, offering free maple syrup samples and demonstrations on making syrup. Games, activities, treats, sugarbush tours and music will take place and, for those who wish, curbside pickup of maple products will be available.

Meanwhile, if you’re still snuggling by the fire or in front of the telly on a chilly evening, binge-watching “Bridgerton” or cheering on your favorite March Madness teams, maple syrup can add some sweetness to your life in the form of maple-glazed popcorn. Yes, we’re all coming out of winter confinement fatter than when we went in, but air-popped popcorn is very low in calories and maple syrup, while nearly identical in calories to sugar, contains some minerals and over 24 different antioxidants, so munch away nearly guilt-free.

M A P L E – G L A Z E D   P O P C O R N

6 cups air-popped popcorn
3 Tbsp. butter
14 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
sea salt

In small saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add maple syrup, stir to combine and heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over popcorn in a large bowl and quickly toss to coat. Spread popped corn out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Allow to cool before eating. Store in an airtight container.

Maple syrup is good in both sweet and savory recipes. This time of year, only cherry tomatoes have any flavor at all and, combined with maple syrup, make a messy but tasty appetizer.

M A P L E – T O M A T O   T O A S T S

1 lb. cherry tomatoes
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
8 thick slices crusty baguette, toasted
4 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss tomatoes, syrup, oil and thyme on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes until caramelized and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Pour off roasting liquid into a small bowl. Drizzle each toast with roasting liquid, then spread with goat cheese and top with tomatoes.

Salmon fillets are often available in seafood cases right now and maple syrup combined with orange juice makes a sweet and tangy marinade, which also becomes a sauce to drizzle over the baked fillets before serving.

M A P L E – O R A N G E   S A L M O N

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 pound salmon fillet
13 cup balsamic vinegar
23cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp. orange zest
14 cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat broiler. Place salmon fillet in a shallow dish. Drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of salt. Whisk together vinegar, maple syrup, orange zest, orange juice, ginger, garlic, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour half of the vinegar mixture over salmon and let stand for 15 minutes. Place remaining half of the vinegar mixture in a small saucepan over low heat; simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with remaining tablespoon of olive oil; transfer fish to pan. Broil eight minutes, or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Drizzle reduced sauce over salmon; serve immediately.