Flavors of Fall

Maple syrup, like many delicious natural products was discovered by accident. Most legends claim that Native Americans thought the liquid dripping from trees that had been cut by their tomahawks was water. After all, it was clear and colorless. They used it to cook meat and discovered that it turned into a delicious sweet glaze. It added wonderful flavor to everything and they began using it to sweeten many different foods. They also boiled it down to thicken it and make chunks of maple sugar that could be put aside for winter, sustaining them through the cold months.

When settlers arrived with metal tools they began drilling holes and adding little wooden spouts to direct the sap into buckets, and the “sugar maple” industry took off. Maple sugar was most popular in Vermont where there were lots of maple trees. In addition, its location far from the seaports where regular white sugar was imported made maple sugar the perfect alternative. Up until the 1930s most maple syrup came from Vermont. In recent years things have changed and 80% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Canada.

Like sugar, maple syrup contains no vitamins; however, it contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. These minerals are not lost during production because there is relatively little processing.

As production methods have improved over time the quality of maple syrup has too. Maple syrup is graded according to color and flavor. It may range from golden to dark amber in color and from mild to robust in taste. Colors and flavor are not indicative of quality; rather, they are used so you can choose which flavor suits your taste best.

Dark syrup is usually used in baking while light amber or golden is more often found at the table. Avoid using “pancake syrup,” which is not maple syrup at all. It’s most often corn syrup with some artificial maple flavor added. For best flavor in glazes and baked goods, choose good quality syrup with a nice aroma.


Maple-Glazed Vegetables

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup light olive oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt

Vegetables:

  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled
  • 2 bell peppers, seeds removed
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 lb. mushrooms
  • 2 zucchini or yellow squash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place all dressing ingredients in a container with a tightly-fitting lid and shake to mix well. Let sit while cutting vegetables.

Cut all vegetables into 1-2 inch pieces. Place carrots and sweet potatoes in a foil-lined sheet pan. Shake dressing and pour half of it over the carrot and potato. Toss to coat. Roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Add remaining cut vegetables and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Put the pan back in the oven and roast for an additional 25-30 minutes, basting once with the dressing.

Serve immediately.


Maple Bourbon Oyster Steaks

  • 4 oyster steaks, 10-14 ounces each
  • 3 large onions, sliced thickly in rings
  • 6 cloves garlic, cracked open
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly-ground pepper
  • 16 ounces maple syrup, divided
  • 1 cup bourbon (Old Williamsburg or Wild Turkey)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place onion slices and garlic in a roasting pan. Place oyster steaks on top. Season well with kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1/4 of the maple syrup.

Place remaining maple syrup, bourbon, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until it is reduced to a sticky glaze. Stir occasionally so it does not burn.

Bake steaks, covered, for 1 hour. Carefully remove from oven. Pour off most of the liquid in the pan.

Pour half the glaze over the steaks and return to the oven. Continue baking, uncovered, 20 minutes or until it has formed a nice crust.

Remove from oven and let steaks rest 5 minutes. Slice across the grain and drizzle remaining glaze on the meat. Serves 8.


Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.


Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to peppermill@hamodia.com. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.