Have you ever tasted pure maple syrup? The kind that just runs out of the tree and into a bucket? Well, neither have I. While maple syrup is a bit more processed to get the rich wonderful maple flavor, the sap that runs out of the tree is basically maple syrup and water.
I have a friend that used to live up north and one day we were talking about our childhood days. She brought up the fact that she used to eat pure maple syrup and that it is nothing like Aunt Jemima’s – although I am not knocking Quaker or their syrup because they make some tasty foods!
However, my friend piqued my interest by saying she used to mix pure maple syrup and peanut butter together and drizzle it over some vanilla ice cream. Well that just sounded too yummy, so my search for pure maple syrup began.
This didn’t take very long nor did I have to go very far. One of the local health food stores carries pure maple products.
My friend was right. The syrup and peanut butter concoction is delicious. In fact, I don’t even need the ice cream. The syrup and peanut butter are so yummy I can eat it all by itself. If you have never tried pure maple syrup, maybe you should; it is much richer and deeper tasting than the typical brands.
So have you ever wondered how maple syrup is made? Other than someone puts a tap in the maple tree and sap runs out. Boom. There’s your syrup! Well, it is a bit more high-tech than that.
In springtime, when the nights are still cold, water from the soil is absorbed into the maple tree. During the day, the warmer temperature creates pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree, making it easy to collect the precious maple sap. The sap is gathered over 12 to 20 days, usually between early March and late April, according to the region.
The sap is transported to a sugarhouse where it is boiled down. Maple sap is approximately 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar. To make maple syrup, the water has to be boiled off to a concentrate of 66 percent sugar.
During cooking, storage tank pipes feed sap to a long and narrow ridged pan called an evaporator. As it boils, water evaporates and the syrup becomes denser and sweeter. The sap boils until it reaches the density of maple syrup. About 10.5 gallons of sap will boil down to one quart of pure maple syrup, which is then bottled and shipped out. And it is that simple.
The brand I have, Highland Sugarworks, is 100 percent natural. Other typical store brands have added ingredients.
While I was doing some research on maple syrup, I ran across the history of Nancy Greene, aka Aunt Jemima. Her story is much longer than what I have whittled down here into a short story.
The world knew her as “Aunt Jemima,” but her given name was Nancy Green. Nancy was born in 1834 as a slave in Montgomery County, Ky. She was a Black storyteller and one of the first black corporate models in the United States.
The famous Aunt Jemima recipe was not her recipe, but she became the advertising world’s first living trademark. Nancy Greene maintained the job of Aunt Jemima until she was killed in a car accident in 1923.
R.I.P. Nancy Greene.
Well, you can give the recipe below a try or if that is too much work for you, just stir some pure maple syrup and peanut butter together and eat that. So good!
Maple Pecan Cake
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup pecan halves
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda and salt. Combine the buttermilk, butter, syrup and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in chopped pecans.
Pour into two 8-in. round baking pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
Glazed pecans: In a small saucepan, bring corn syrup to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in pecan halves until coated. Place in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Cool.
For frosting: In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and syrup until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar. Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with second layer; frost top and sides of cake.
Note: This recipe does not use eggs.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. v