Butternut Mountain Farm founder David Marvin knows real maple syrup. From how to make it to what to make with it. “I absolutely use it every day,” he says of the wholesome sweetener. Using maple syrup throughout the day is a lot easier than you may think. The pairing possibilities are expansive, and no, pancakes need not be involved.
There are the obvious pairings: pancakes, waffles, French toast, oatmeal. And then there are the unexpected alliances: poultry, miso, soy sauce, beans, even pickles!
We take Marvin’s advice and seek the thoughtful counsel from Blair Marvin of Elmore Mountain Bread and Darlene Longe of Darlene’s Delectable Delights (and Butternut Mountain Farm!) to learn more about using maple syrup in the kitchen.
All About Grades
“I like all grades, but it depends on for what,” David says. The first point before pairing is that not all real maple syrup has a unified flavor profile. Dark, Robust’s taste differs from Golden, Delicate’s and thus they may pair better with different ingredients. David Marvin shares that Golden, Delicate is great on vanilla ice cream with salted peanuts. Dark, Robust gets poured over his cereal every morning. And Amber, Rich on apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese.
When it comes to baking, Blair Marvin of Elmore Mountain Bread geeks out on grades. “I value the dynamic differences in different grades of syrup.” Blair applies syrup to bread based upon what she’s looking for in the final product, and the depth of flavor it brings. Try Golden, Delicate, Amber, Rich and Dark, Robust maple syrup to get a sense of what each classification of Grade A real maple syrup brings to the table. Samplers are a perfect way to acquaint yourself with the unique flavor profiles!
Maple and Sweet Pairings
On the sweet side of things, David appreciates maple and mascarpone together. Whip them up together for a topping over fresh fruit or use as a frosting for an olive oil cake. Breakfast fans might already know that “maple and butter are made for each other” as Marvin muses. This undeniable combination delights. Fold maple syrup into softened butter for a compound butter you can use on everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to cinnamon-maple sugar toast. And, of course, is there anything better than warm real maple syrup and a knob of butter gliding down a stack of brioche French toast?
Try maple syrup on ice cream, over cereal, on fruit, in your frostings, and as a sweetener for lemonade.
But perhaps you don’t have a sweet tooth, and in that case it’s critical to note that maple can be used in the savory side of things.
Maple and Savory Pairings
Maple pairings are nearly endless on the savory spectrum. Perhaps that’s because sometimes maple’s presence isn’t in the form you may expect. There’s maple sugar, maple seasoning and maple pepper to explore. All these forms of maple broaden the pairing options. “For spicing we often use maple pepper or maple garlic pepper,” David shares. Add maple sugar, maple pepper, and maple syrup to dressings to amplify salads and to marinades to make poultry, meat and fish shine.
Speaking of fish and the many forms maple takes, David notes that “salmon is made for maple.” He recommends using maple sugar or maple mustard in a marinade to bake fish in for a fillet that will become a permanent player in your weekly dinner rotation.
But in terms of using maple in savory dishes, maple isn’t limited to marinades and dressings.
Darlene Long of Darlene’s Delectable Delights and Pick Pack Supervisor at Butternut Mountain Farm, clues us into how she uses the sweetener in savory dishes. “I use maple in everything,” Darlene shares. And this is no hyperbole. “I put it in my spaghetti sauce to sweeten it.” This may elicit thoughts of Buddy the Elf’s sweet spaghetti concoction, but we assure you that adding maple to tomato sauce doesn’t make it taste like it needs marshmallows instead of meatballs.
Sugar is a common ingredient in tomato sauce as it cuts acidity. Real maple syrup steps in as a sweetening agent while keeping the sauce free of processed sugars.
In the same vein as pasta, David Marvin lights up about maple used atop pizza. “I enjoy flatbreads made locally with cheddar with smoked bacon, apples and a drizzle of syrup.” And then a list of dream toppings is rattled off that we hope serves as ordering inspiration: spinach, pears, apples, cheddar cheese and onions all under a drizzle of real maple syrup. Why not pour yourself a maple tout to compliment the slice?
And then there are beans. Marvin pairs dark maple syrup with beans. “I love baked beans. They need to have a lot of very dark strong or processing grade syrup in them. You need at least Dark, Robust in order to have the flavor come through with baked beans.”
Next time you’re looking at a recipe for dinner you might find a place to add maple. There are many ways to incorporate maple into vegetable dishes without turning them into dessert. Experiment with the flavor and explore how maple enhances all kinds of recipes.
Until then, you can always be assured that maple shines brilliantly in the bakery.
Maple and Baked Goods
“In baked goods there’s always maple,” Blair Marvin says. Doughs are the perfect place to use a hefty pour maple. We consulted Blair Marvin of Elmore Mountain Bread to help us understand maple’s place in the bakery. But first Blair shares that “maple syrup is in my blood. It’s part of my food vernacular.”
Elmore Mountain Bread uses maple syrup in two of their breads: maple cinnamon raisin and anadama bread, a sweet corn hearth bread. Maple syrup is cooked into the cornmeal and then added to the dough.
For budding bakers, spelt and maple syrup are a fantastic combination. “Spelt has such a sweet and nutty flavor to it that I find anything made with spelt is absolutely amazing,” Blair says. Adding maple to this grain enhances a subtle sweetness and encourages the nuttiness of the spelt to bloom, making it a pairing that is “unlike anything.”
We encourage everyone from home cooks to professional chefs to experiment with their application of real maple syrup.
While the above pairings may act as inspiration, we asked David, Darlene and Blair for their advice to help get you started using maple syrup in the kitchen.
How to Cook and Bake with Maple
Vermonters don’t shy away from the volume of maple syrup when cooking. “Don’t dabble in it,” Marvin encourages. “If you want maple flavor, use ¼ cup or a ½ cup and,” David emphasizes, “don’t split it with brown sugar. The brown sugar will bury the maple flavor.” While maple syrup contains sugar, it’s a wholesome, single ingredient, nutritive ingredient that we much prefer to processed sugar. Don’t be afraid to use it!
Darlene’s advice to approaching maple use in recipes is to start with a taste to see what you like. “See where your flavor tone is. If you pour too much you can’t take it back,” she warns. Add more as you go to see where maple flavor is juuust right for your taste.
And when it comes to baking with maple, Blair empowers curious bakers to really go for it. “Never be afraid to go ahead and substitute it all the way,” Blair says. “If it’s too sweet, back off of a little bit.” Of course, using maple in baking gets a bit more technical. “If people are adding syrup to sourdough breads at home one thing to think about is when you add sweetener it causes breads to rise faster, or ferment faster. If you follow a formula and decide to add sweetness, keep a close eye on it. It may rise faster.”
Have fun with maple in all its forms: syrup, sugar, mustard, seasoning, pepper, and more. Add maple to pickle brines, pour maple over scrambled eggs, sprinkle maple sugar over fresh fruit, try maple in your burgers!