Retail maple syrup goes in grades from the very light Fancy down to Grade B. There are other, commercial, grades lower than B . . . these are dark syrups with a heavy maple taste and not what you would put on your pancakes.
This year, my syrup was quite dark, I got a fair amount of Grade C. There were a few factors leading to this result. A batch of not quite dry Aspen firewood (which did not allow the sap to boil fast enough), an old and somewhat warped front pan (deeper sap levels needed, slower boil), warm air temperatures, and the age and sugar content of the sap itself could also affect the final grade.
Some qualities of C syrup make it better for certain cooking projects. It can be used in some recipes to replace corn syrup because it doesn’t chrystallize as easily as lighter grades. Sometimes it works in recipes with very strong flavors that might cover up the maple flavor if that isn’t just as strong.
Below are two recipes we played with this maple season using Grade C.
2 sticks butter (Cabot, of course)
2 ¼ cups brown sugar
1 cup Grade C maple syrup
One 15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
pinch finely ground black pepper
In heavy bottomed pan, melt butter. Stir in sugar. Stir in syrup, then condensed milk. Heat for 9 minutes then start checking for soft ball stage. Remove at soft ball. Stir in vanilla and pepper and pour into a well greased 9x9x2 pan (glass works best). One trick I use for greasing this pan well without making the final caramels greasy is to get the butter flavored cooking spray and coat using that.
After the pan has cooled, you now have a lot of caramel to play with. The picture above shows caramel rolled in unsweetened coconut and stuffed into medjool dates with a toasted walnut on top. It’s best to keep this caramel in the fridge.
Shaker Boiled Cider Pie
(from the Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich)
1 recipe pie crust – see below
3/4 cup boiled cider – you can buy this or you can do exactly what the name says; slowly boil cider in a wide topped skillet until it is a thick syrup.
3/4 cup Grade C syrup
2 Tb butter
3 eggs separated and at room temperature
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Prepare the pie crust and put in freezer. Preheat oven to 350
Gently warm the boiled cider, maple syrup, and butter in a small saucepan just until the butter melts. Transfer to large bowl, cool slightly. Whisk in the salt and egg yolks.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then quickly whisk them into the cider mixture.
Pour the filling into the chilled crust and bake, on the center rack, for about 40 minutes. When done, the top will be dark brown and the pie will wobbly slightly, not in waves. Cool on a rack, dusting the surface with nutmeg. Serve slightly warm or refrigerate.
Tastes particularly good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold, unsalted butter
Mix salt into flour.
Cut the butter into flour until mixture has formed a fine grain but has not begun to stick together. If possible, cover and freeze this mixture for 1 hour.
Add the water, starting with a couple of tablespoons, and mix in with your fingers until the dough just barely holds together. Be careful not to over mix. Let dough rest, covered, in fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Roll out the dough on a generously floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Line a greased 9-inch pie dish with dough and trim off any excess.
Use as directed above.