If you were lucky enough to harvest your own maple syrup, you might be wondering how many pancakes it’s going to take to make a dent in the supply of jars stacked in the pantry. Although syrup is the naturally perfect garnish for nearly any grain-based griddle dish, its possibilities in the kitchen and home are only limited by the syrup maker’s imagination. Yes, you have an abundance of all-natural sweetener on your hands, but if that syrup has ever seeped over to your eggs or bacon, you’ve likely discovered the magic it works to amplify the savory and salty sides of life, as well.
Let that syrup-sticky breakfast plate be your inspiration to experiment with maple syrup in your cooking, baking and household activities. To help get your mind rolling, here are five simple but maybe less-traditional places to add a good glug of maple sweetness.
That’s right. If you’re blessed enough to enjoy a foot or two of snow each year, bring some inside. Pack a cake pan, pie pan or another like-sized container with clean, fresh snow. Using a candy thermometer, bring 1/2 cup maple syrup to 235 degrees F (the “soft ball” stage of candy). Turn off the heat, let the syrup cool for a minute, then carefully drizzle it over the pan full of snow. The snow will turn into a lovely taffy candy wherever the syrup hits, a chewy little winter treat. Eat it all, or eat a little—if it melts down, you’ll simply be left with maple syrup to reuse.
2. Cured Meats
If, like me, you sometimes stay up at night drooling over pictures of deli sandwiches, you might try a drizzle of syrup over any choice of your favorite salty slices of lunchmeat. I don’t know the chemistry behind the union, but maple syrup and lunchmeat, or any cured meat, in my experience, absolutely love one another. It doesn’t take much—don’t over-sweeten—but a light drizzle of syrup along with the usual toppings will leave a smile on your face. Bologna is a great example, here. I know, I know—just try it, especially grilled with some cheese. Trust me.
Burn an inexpensive, unscented votive candle until there’s a pool of melted wax around the wick. Add a few drops of syrup to the pool, and in minutes, the room will smell like a syrup factory. This is a great way to call friends or children to the table, especially when a warm bottle of syrup sits in the center, waiting to be used.
4. The Frying Pan
When frying meats or vegetables, one often dredges the item to be fried in an egg-milk mixture before the final dry coating of choice. Add some syrup to the egg-milk wash for a nice distinctive hint of maple. Try this with whatever you like to fry, from chicken to okra. Baby Bella mushroom caps are my favorite: Dredge in an egg/milk/syrup bath, coat with a nicely seasoned cornmeal, and fry away. You’ll soon wonder where all the fried goodness went.
5. The Slow Cooker
Just about any meat- or root vegetable-based dish, cooked slowly in its own juices or over an open fire, will gain a smoky sweetness from a small amount of maple syrup (the darker, the better). Have a roast and veggies in the slow cooker? Add 1/2 cup syrup, and you’ll never want carrots and potatoes without it again. Firing up the grill? Use the syrup as a glaze, brushed on like barbecue sauce, for a sweet, crispy change of pace. For a more subtle effect, add a few glugs to your favorite marinade.
These are just a few ideas I’ve tried, none of them new or brilliant, but they might be some new ways to put that syrup you love so much to good use. The possibilities for maple syrup are only as limited as the user. Whether you put one of these methods to use, try your own ideas or just keep the syrup on lockdown for serious pancakes and waffles, be sure to share, use and enjoy it well, however you like.