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Read: Recipes

Filtering by Category: Spring

Maple syrup announces spring

Beth Dooley

The first signs of spring are very sweet, literally. It’s maple syrup season and I’m just back from a friend’s sugar bush near Lake Superior where we tapped trees in the deep, quiet, snowy woods.

At this time of year, you get a whiff of maple on the bright, damp spring air as the sap simmers into syrup. A group of us gathered to help schlep buckets of sap, collected from taps under the tress, to the huge pot set over a fire. We took turns stirring, while sipping maple-spiked coffee, cocoa and whiskey, stamping our feet to stay warm.

Maple is North America’s most reliable indigenous sweetener. Sap is clear, mildly sweet, and runs when the day’s temperatures rise above freezing and then drop back down at night. The season begins in March and, most years, continues for about a month. Given our winter, this promises to be a very good year.

It takes about 40 years for a tree to mature and produce sap, and about 45 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup.

The process of reducing the liquid to a thick, glossy syrup is simple. The first run of sap boils down to be relatively light and clear before the rush of starches have begun pulsing through the tree. As the season progresses, the syrup becomes darker, until the last run is as dark as wet tree bark.

Maple syrup, once opened, is best kept in the refrigerator or it may turn moldy. Glass containers maintain the pure taste better than do plastic and metal. If mold develops, strain it out, bring the syrup to a boil in a saucepan, then cool and refrigerate.

Several years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture adapted a grading system that relates to color and taste:

Golden: Light and translucent, this syrup is delicate and subtle. Save this for fluffy waffles, crêpes, vanilla ice cream, foods that don’t compete with its pure favor.

Amber: This is the familiar maple syrup, sturdy and predictable. It’s the syrup for hearty pancakes and bacon, bourbon cocktails and glazes. Its flavor comes through, but does not overwhelm.

Dark: This is the strong stuff, perfect for a barbecue sauce, New England baked beans, and to brush on a slow roasting duck or pork shoulder roast. It makes a wonderful alternative to molasses in ginger cookies and breads.

Butter Roasted Leeks

Pallas Erdrich

Butter Roasted Leeks photo by Mette Nielsen

Butter Roasted Leeks photo by Mette Nielsen

Butter Roasted Leeks

Serves 4 to 6

            Pair these with roast chicken or toss with pasta, fold into an omelet or strew on pizza.

4 medium leeks, trimmed, sliced in half

¼ cup vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

            Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Run the leeks under cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Pat dry with a clean dishtowel. Place the leeks in a baking dish, add the stock and lemon juice. Drizzle with the butter, season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake the leeks until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting the leeks until the color begins to darken, about 10 to 15 minutes more.




Hot & Tangy Strawberry Jam

Pallas Erdrich

Hot & Tangy Strawberry Jam photo by Mette Nielsen

Hot & Tangy Strawberry Jam photo by Mette Nielsen

Hot & Tangy Strawberry Jam

Makes about 2 half pints


2 pints strawberries cut into smaller pieces, about 5 cups

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice (red grapefruit preferred)

1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional


Combine all of the ingredients into a 10-inch sauté pan. Set it over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat an simmer, stirring occasionally until the jam begins to thicken, about 12 to 15 minutes.


Remove the pan from the heat and spoon into clean jars, leaving a half inch f head room to allow for expansion. Wipe the rims with a clean wet cloth or paper towel, add the lids and bands, and finger tighten the bands. Once cooled, store in the refrigerator or freeze.