All photos by Julianne Puckett.
Whether you are a resident of or visitor to Vermont, you know that we just entered one of the best times of the year. March Madness? Hardly. Early springtime? Don’t make me laugh. Mud season? I said best time of the year, not worst.
The sap is running and Vermonters are making maple syrup.
It’s amazing what can be done with just a little tree sap, isn’t it? It amazed me so much that I toyed this year with the idea of giving sugaring the old DIY try, tapping some trees on my property and making my own syrup. How hard could it be, I thought?
That it’s not hard, just incredibly time-consuming, is what I learned after attending a seminar on backyard sugaring offered by Gardener’s Supply in Burlington. Time-consuming enough that I decided it to leave it to the true enthusiasts and just happily remain a buyer-consumer rather than producer.
So, while I’m not making my own syrup, I can still celebrate all the mapley goodness that comes our way this time of year. And, as a food blogger, that means I look for creative ways to cook with local maple products. Here are a couple of my favorite maple recipes:
Pancake Breakfast Muffins
While I love pancakes, I almost never bother to make them. It seems like too much of a hassle to drag out the griddle and just stand there, making three pancakes at a time. Recently, I realized that I could mess around with the format a little and include the side of bacon or sausage that often accompany pancakes, all slathered with maple syrup. Result? The pancake breakfast muffin: pancakes, rich maple syrup and Vermont Salumi‘s maple breakfast sausage, all cutified into a bite-sized muffin you can eat on the go.
Bacon Cheddar Maple Beer Bread
Having procured some local maple ale last month, I decided to make beer bread. But then I started thinking about what else complements maple. I ended up with a hearty beer bread that also includes maple syrup, bacon and Cabot Smoky Bacon Cheddar cheese. Not only is this bread perfect alongside a bowl of soup or chili, it also makes an over-the-top toad-in-the-hole breakfast: butter it on both sides, cut out the middle with a biscuit cutter, pop it in a frying pan and crack an egg into the center (flip it carefully!).
Maple Walnut Crackers
If you think crackers are hard to make, think again. It is as easy as baking cookies: mix the ingredients together, roll out the dough, cut out shapes and bake. Start with a basic cracker recipe (which can easily be made gluten-free, as well) and add a variety of combinations of ingredients to make your seasonal favorites. These maple walnut crackers are a delightful snack all on their own but also make a great addition to plate of Vermont cheeses.
So whether you are a maple producer (thank you!) or simply a maple consumer, happy sugaring season!