Archive for the ‘Maple Syrup and Sugar’ Category

Slightly Sweet and Slightly Spicy Pecans

Friday, March 9th, 2012

March Madness may mean basketball to SOME PEOPLE—but as far as I’m concerned it’s all about maple syrup. The weather is plum crazy, but the sugarhouses are boiling sap, and I’m thinking of new ways to use my favorite sweetener.

Last week I invited over some friends and relatives and concocted a maple meal for an article in our local paper, the West County Independent.

Actually, I didn’t quite manage to flavor the entire meal. I was going to do some kind of roasting thing with potatoes and carrots and chickened out at the last minute. I mashed the potatoes and threw the carrots into my maple coleslaw. The rest of the meal was all maple, however.

Glazed pecans were our appetizer.

I love spicy foods. I wasn’t sure exactly how much heat my dinner guests’ palates could takes, however. I therefore made my maple nuts just a little bit hot and just a little bit sweet. We loved them!

My Pecans

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a bit more to taste later if you like)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups raw pecans

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat in a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the maple syrup and spices. Add the pecans and toss them well to make sure they are coated.

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake the nuts for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste a nut after 1/2 hour to see if the seasonings suit your taste; if not, add a little more salt and/or even a little more spice.

When the hour is up remove the nuts from the oven and let them cool on wire racks lined with brown paper. They will be soft at first but will crunch up as they cool.

When the nuts have cooled completely store them in a tin, a jar, or a well sealed plastic bag … or just eat them!

Makes about 3 cups.

Little Rhubarb wonders what the heck these brown things might be.

 

A Family Affair: Davenport Maple Farm

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
This photo was taken three years ago, but the ambiance hasn’t changed much! (Courtesy of Davenport Maple Farm)

March is Massachusetts Maple Month, and an annual pilgrimage for many syrup lovers is now underway. Nothing beats a visit to a sugarhouse restaurant at this time of year to watch sap being boiled and consume food made with fresh, hot syrup.

At Davenport Maple Farm, high on Tower Road in Shelburne, Norman Davenport and his wife Lisa are boiling sap furiously in their evaporator and greeting crowds at their restaurant, which is open only on weekends during maple season. The farm has been in the Davenport family for generations.

“We’re actually approaching our centennial,” Lisa Davenport told me recently. “Norman’s great grandfather Walter Davenport purchased the farm in 1913. There was always sugaring going on here prior to that. And they’ve always had cows here.”

She noted that the restaurant, which opened in 1990, was the brainchild of her husband’s father. At that point the family’s old sugarhouse was in need of substantial repairs, and Russell Davenport and his wife Martha decided to expand it into to a restaurant.

Two decades later the senior Davenports can still be found at the restaurant during maple season. Russ Davenport helps Norman run the evaporator and chats with customers, and Martha Davenport runs the cash register. Lisa and Norm’s daughter Maegan runs the kitchen while daughter Daina serves as head waitress.

“Norm’s sister Barbara Goodchild comes up and helps, too. It’s really a family affair,” said Lisa. “I supervise everybody. I do all the ordering and the payroll, I go out and do the shopping, and I fill in for somebody when they stop working.”

She admitted that while she enjoys maple season she can also find the family’s restaurant weekends intense.

“It’s a short season, six weeks long, but you’ve got a couple of weeks beforehand when you’re getting ready for it. There are some all-nighters. If the sap’s really running, you’ve got to keep boiling.”

She observed that she sometimes sets her cell phone to wake her up in the morning only to hear it ring in her pocket at the end of a long night at the evaporator.

“And we still have the cows to milk and regular chores to do,” she added. “It’s a long schedule, but it’s fun. You’re right in the middle of it all the time.”

Most visitors to the restaurant order breakfast, which is served all day, although the Davenports also offer lunch items. These include hamburgers made from their own beef, corn chowder, maple baked beans, and grilled cheese.

Asked to sum up the farm’s cuisine, Lisa Davenport thought for a minute. “Good home cooking. We don’t use any mixes; it’s all made from scratch. I bake all the bread.”

At home the Davenports use maple syrup in a variety of dishes. “My kids didn’t like spaghetti sauce or the tomato sauces,” Lisa told me. “They’d just have buttered pasta with maple syrup drizzled over it.” I am NOT telling my nephew Michael about this practice!

She also tops her tuna-noodle casserole with maple syrup and crackers. And she recommends a drop or two of syrup on scrambled eggs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for the tuna casserole or even the eggs. Nevertheless, I did enjoy making and eating the Finnish pancakes that are the restaurant’s most popular breakfast offering.

The recipe below served four of my family members, although Lisa explained that she doubles it for four. Portions are generous at Davenport’s!

The pancake tastes a bit like a rich custard as it doesn’t use a lot of flour.

Davenport Farm Finnish Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 cups fresh milk
4 large eggs
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter and place it in an 8-by-8-inch pan or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Mix the milk and the eggs lightly with a beater; then add the sugar, the salt, and the flour. Pour the mixed batter over the melted butter and bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Serves 4.

Photo by Michael Weisblat, who helped eat!

Maple Butterscotch Sauce

Monday, March 28th, 2011

 
I’m a little late to the party celebrating Massachusetts Maple Month—but at least I can offer a small contribution.
 
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. Sometimes they’re also the only ones for which a home cook has the time and the ingredients.
 
I originally hoped to share my friend Pat’s prize-winning recipe for maple lace cookies. Our extended family was coming to dinner Saturday evening, and I was all set to make these wafers—or so I thought.
 
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the key ingredient in my pantry: maple sugar!!
 
So I punted and made a maple-based sauce for ice cream instead.
 
Very rich and very sweet, it works beautifully poured in small quantities over ice cream. Toasted walnuts or pecans make a festive garnish. 

As for the cookies, well, I can make them NEXT March……… 

My nephew Michael had no trouble finishing his maple buttersotch sundae.

 
The Sauce
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
 
Instructions:
 
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat melt the butter, stirring constantly. Add the brown sugar and stir until it melts. Continue to stir or whisk as the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
 
Whisk in the maple syrup. The mixture will look a little weird at first, but it will come together eventually! Return the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, and boil it (still whisking!) until it coats a spoon. This took about 3 minutes on my weird electric stove.
 
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream. Let the sauce cool slightly before serving it with ice cream. (You may also let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. At that point warm it slightly in the microwave.) 

Makes just over 1-1/2 cups.

Hilo to Hawley Barbecue Sauce

Thursday, September 9th, 2010
 
 
Generally, I know what I’m going to get when I test a recipe. Every once in a while, however, I’m completely surprised.
 
Surprise was definitely the word of the day when I tried this recipe.
 
Devany Vickery-Davidson is a writer and ceramic artist who lives in Hawaii. Her blog, My Hawaiian Home, features delectable recipes and stories of her adventures in her tropical milieu. 

Her dog Valentine is NEARLY as cute as my Truffle. And Valentine has her own lei. (I refuse to show this picture to Truffle!)
 

Valentine in Paradise (Courtesy of Devany Vickery-Davidson)

 
Devany recently sent me her homemade ketchup recipe. I was determined to try it out.
 
I had a lot of tomatoes in the house (not enough, it turned out—Devany DID warn me that one needed a huge garden to make her recipe!). And my nephew Michael is a ketchup fanatic.
 
I adapted Devany’s Hawaiian-oriented recipe to reflect local ingredients around my home in Hawley, Massachusetts. Devany often uses palm vinegar; I used cider vinegar from Apex Orchards. She uses raw cane and brown sugar; I used maple syrup. She uses a Maui onion; I used a local Vidalia type.
 
I cooked and cooked and cooked the ketchup. When it was still wet but getting thicker I tasted it.
 
It didn’t taste ANYTHING like ketchup. My local cider vinegar was way too robust.
 
At the suggestion of my friend Chef Michael Collins I added more maple syrup and kept cooking. When I tasted the revised ketchup, it still wasn’t very ketchup like.
 
I was just about to give up when I tasted it again and experienced a moment of epiphany.
 
My concoction still didn’t taste anything like ketchup. BUT … it DID taste like really good barbecue sauce.
 
So that’s what I’m calling it.
 
You’ll only want to make this recipe if you have lots and lots of tomatoes in your garden or farm share; it’s quite expensive per ounce if you go out and buy the darn things.
 
It’s worth trying if you have a surfeit of tomatoes, however. It’s dark, sweet, and tangy—perfect barbecue sauce, in other words. 

Thank you, Devany, for leading me on this adventure! Whatever this stuff is called, it’s delicious.

 
Devany’s Sauce Adapted by Tinky
 
Ingredients:
 
1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1-1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
8 black peppercorns
1 fresh bay leaf or 1/2 dried bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 nutmeg nut, grated
12 pounds (5 kilograms) chopped tomatoes—6 to 7 quarts (Devany suggests using Roma or paste tomatoes, but any tomato will do; regular tomatoes, which I used, just have more liquid and will therefore yield less sauce.)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 Serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon kosher salt (Devany uses 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, but I used what I had)
 
Instructions:
 
Place the vinegar in a saucepan. Tie the mustard seeds, allspice, celery seeds, cloves, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Place the cheesecloth bag in the vinegar along with the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg.
 
Bring the mixture slowly to a boil; then turn off the heat and let the vinegar sit with the spices for 1 hour. Discard the spices (except for the nutmeg, which will be in the vinegar!) and set the vinegar aside.
 
In a large nonreactive kettle combine the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and peppers. Heat the ingredients over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat; allow the mixture to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
 
Stir in the spiced vinegar and continue to simmer for another 1/2 hour, still stirring from time to time.
 
Remove the pot from the heat and put the tomatoes and other vegetables through a food mill. Try to extract as much pulp and juice as you can. Discard the leftover solids, seeds, and skins.
 
Stir the maple syrup and salt into the tomato mixture, and return it to the heat. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until your barbecue sauce achieves the desired consistency. (This took me about 4 hours.) 

I ended up with a little less than 1 quart of sauce, but one would probably achieve a larger yield (and a shorter cooking time) with the tomatoes Devany recommends.


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Cooking with Love (Again)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

maplesausageweb

 
The secret of good cooking is to cook with love—or so my mother taught me when I was a little girl. We should love the creative act of cooking. We should love and respect the ingredients we use. And we should love those for whom we cook.
 
Most of the time all this love comes naturally to me. If I didn’t find the act of cooking fulfilling, I wouldn’t be a food writer. I enjoy watching different foods ebb and flow in farm stands and grocery stores as the seasons shift. And I get great satisfaction from cooking for, and eating with, my family and friends. Food is part of our communal life.
 
Last week, however, was NOT my most loving time in the kitchen. We’ve all had so-called bad hair days. I had a bad food week.
 
It took me a while to realize what the problem was. All I knew was that just about everything I made (including recipes I was testing for publication) turned out somewhere between barely adequate and (shudder!) pretty awful. Usually, the range is from tasty to fabulous.
 
Friday afternoon I suddenly observed that the joy had gone out of my kitchen. I was viewing cooking as a task instead of a pleasure.
 
The problem wasn’t with cooking, of course. It was with me. I think my frazzled state might have been induced in part by the time of year. We have more sunshine now than we did in February—and the air is definitely warmer. Nevertheless, spring hasn’t quite hit the ground running yet. And summer seems a long way off.
 
To tackle the problem I turned off the stove and the computer and made myself a list. (I love lists!) The list was a bit of a hodgepodge because it had a dual purpose: to make me feel better in general and to help me return to work and cooking with a more cheerful and loving heart.
 
Here is my list. Obviously, this list won’t work for everyone. It might inspire others, however.
 
Truffleweb
 
1. Take the dog (or the child or the cat or the ferret or whatever you have) for a long walk. Even on rainy days at this time of year one can smell spring in the air! And it’s good to get the body exercising as well as the brain.
 
2. Do something to cheer up someone else. When I got back from the walk I took my mother for a drive (she’s not in shape yet to go walking with Truffle and me). Making her happy made me happier.
 
3. Listen to–or better yet make!–some music. It’s the food of love, so it’s bound to help restore the love of food.
 
4. Buy hair dye. (I told you the list was idiosyncratic.) When I was 26 I suddenly noticed a gray patch in my bangs, a patch that has only gotten larger and more obvious with the passage of time. The woman who cuts my hair may say it’s distinguished to have a highlight in the front of my hairdo as much as she likes. We all know “distinguished” is a code word for “old.”
 
5. Simplify tasks. I knew I had to return to the kitchen. So I vowed that my next few recipes would be easy ones that took advantage of ingredients I already had in the house or could get very easily. Making cooking easy was the first step toward making it a joyful and loving experience again.
 
I may not be ready to make a soufflé or a cassoulet at this point, but I’m back to cooking with enthusiasm and making meals that I and others can enjoy. Here is one of the simple recipes that helped me get there.
 
It’s perfect for this time of year since we’re still in maple month…… Remember, spring is a time of renewal!
 
bacononions
 
Maple Candied Sausage
 
This three-ingredient appetizer recipe comes from a delightful cookbook titled Fry Bacon. Add Onions: The Valentine Family & Friends Cookbook. A new edition of this book by Kathleen Valentine of Gloucester has just been published by the Parlez-Moi Press.
 
I enjoy the way Kathleen weaves reminiscences, photos of family and friends, and recipes into an attractive volume that shares her family’s life and many of its loves. She comes of Pennsylvania Dutch stock so the book features many of my favorite sweet-and-sour combinations.
 
Tammy Hicks of Charlemont, Massachusetts, gave me a similar recipe last year using grape jelly and barbecue sauce. Sweet and saucy, both recipes make excellent finger food (toothpick food, actually) for large parties.
 
Kathleen’s original recipe calls for 3 to 4 pounds of sausage, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup maple syrup. I was serving fewer people so I reduced her proportions.
 
I know there are those of you out there who will find this overly sweet—but kids and old folks love it! Serve it with a little sauerkraut to offset the sugar. (Kathleen’s book offers a number of recipes from which you can choose.)
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
 
Instructions:
 
Brown the sausage pieces lightly in a frying pan. Transfer them to a 1-1/2 quart saucepan, and stir in the brown sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring from time to time. Serves 8 as an appetizer.
 
maplesausage inpotweb
 

 

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