Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mystery of the "Maple" Syrup

Did you love reading Nancy Drew when you were young like I did? By the time I turned 11 or so, I had collected all 52 books in the mystery series, and had read each of them several times. As I look back, I remember "Password to Larkspur Lane" as a favorite ... or did it just have a really, really great title? I fashioned my little girl self in the mid-1970s a modern, Nancy-type sleuth, with my radar constantly attuned to a possible mystery to solve: Dad's lost car keys, a suspicious telephone caller, a strange car parked across the street ... the possibilities were endless in my suburban neighborhood!

Well, friends, we've a new mystery to solve: what happened to "maple syrup" being even an ingredient in any of the syrups that line the shelves at the grocery store? For years, I have bought Mrs. Butterworth's Original Syrup in size-huge from Costco, and I finally turned the jug around to check out the ingredients. Here they are, and they're not pretty: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, cellulose gum, molasses, natural and artificial flavor, lactic acid, sodium hexametaphosphate (yum!), potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, caramel color, and citric acid. Decidedly NO maple anything to be found, and funny enough, not even any "butter" in ol' Mrs. Butterworth's. All of the sudden the old favorite doesn't taste so good.

At the back of my pantry I discovered an bottle of 100% Pure Maple Syrup and decided to try it on a couple of pancakes last week. Have to tell you, not so tasty. But then, being the detective that I still am, I spotted a few words at the bottom of the back label: "refrigerate after opening". Oh. Remember that I had found the stuff at the back of the shelf, and it had been for at least a couple of years. Peering into the glass bottle, I looked for a clue, and there it was! A faint layer of white, bubbly mold growing on the top of the amber-colored syrup. Ah-ha! THAT mystery solved: the stuff was rancid! Definitely explained the foul taste. I was on to something.

Hot on the path of solving The Mystery of the "Maple" Syrup, I zoomed to the store, not in my blue convertible, but my functional, white Chevy SUV, to buy a new, small bottle of 100% Pure Maple Syrup. I quickly found that it really is quite delicious. It is thinner than Mrs. B's, but I have to remember that it doesn't have the cellulose gum and whatever else makes the other stuff unnaturally thick. Another note: a 12 oz. bottle of the real thing is $8.99, about triple the price of the others. I will definitely be investing in a larger, more economical jug of real maple syrup from Costco.

As luck would have it, I was perusing the pages of Martha Stewart Living last week, and found a recipe for Berry Maple Syrup. I tried it out, loved it, and you'll find it below, along with a recipe for Whole Wheat Pancakes (that's for you, Natalie!). I don't even miss the tablespoons of butter that I used to slather on top of my hot pancakes!

So there it is ... mystery solved! If I want maple syrup, well then, I need to buy maple syrup! Reading food labels has become an absolute must for me as I pursue healthier, more delicious eating.

Tell me, do you have any healthy ideas for yummy pancakes or waffles? Do share! Here are a couple of my ideas for you to try:

Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. sugar (I omitted this)
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional - I ALWAYS put cinnamon in pancakes!)
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
1 c. milk (I use fat-free)
2 T. canola oil

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk egg, milk, and oil together, then add to dry mixture. Pour batter onto hot griddle that has been sprayed with Pam, and flip pancakes when they are bubbly and dry around the edges. Makes six medium pancakes. Can be easily doubled/tripled.

Berry Maple Syrup
(from Martha Stewart Living, April 2011)

Heat 1 cup pure maple syrup (any grade) in a saucepan over medium heat until reduced by half. Add 1 cup mixed berries. (I used strawberries) Reduce heat, and simmer until berries are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let steep for 20 minutes. Makes 1 cup syrup. (enough for four servings of pancakes)


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  2. I am so excited to try these!!!! Thank you!

  3. Macy, I have only always known "homemade" syrup. My mom made it, I made it and now my kids make it. It's water, sugar and mapleine. That's it...easy. But it is sugary. The good thing is, it's thin and runny, you don't have to use so much. Because of always making my own, I have never liked store bought of any kind.
    Also, in all my pancake, whole wheat or regular, I add a little vanilla too. I beat the egg whites separately and it makes the whole wheat pancakes light and fluffy.

  4. Now that we live out in PA, we are now learned in the ways of maple sugaring. There are a lot of people out here who do that. Last year we visited a maple sugar festival and learned about all the different equipment and procedures for tapping trees. It's a lot of work and it takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup which is probably why the cheap stuff abounds.

    While at the festical, we had maple sugar cotton candy (yum!)and thick maple candy squirted onto ice to cool and served with a dill pickle to combat the sweetness! It's actually a good combo.

    Real maple syrup is great!The former owners left us sugaring equipment in a shed, maybe one year we'll learn how to use it. ;)