With maple trees to be found everywhere you turn in the Explorers’ Edge region of Ontario, it’s no surprise that harvested maple syrup is a staple ingredient at this time of year with chefs across Algonquin Park, the Almaguin Highlands, Loring-Restoule, Muskoka and Parry Sound.
Fact is, as a natural sweetener, maple syrup can be used in many dishes in addition to Canadian favourites like pancakes and waffles. Here are some favourite recipes shared by a few exceptional local chefs who know a lot about the versatility of spring’s golden nectar. Enjoy!
Sugar Pie from Crossroads Restaurant, Rosseau
What you see is what you get from chefs Julie and Richard Lalonde – one sweet dessert with maple as the main attraction. Based on a traditional recipe brought to Rosseau from Richard’s native Quebec.
1/2 cup of pure maple syrup
1/2 cup flour
3 cups of brown sugar
3 cups of 35% cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon of salt
Preparation: Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Mix all liquid ingredients well together and add to dry ingredients. Pour into unbaked pie shells and bake at 350ºF for 30-45 minutes until middle is firm. The mixture will rise up and fall when cooled. Makes 2 – 3 pies depending on pie shells.
Apple-Bacon-Maple Jam from Sherwood Inn, Port Carling
“Maple syrup can be used a myriad of ways,” says Everett Bell, Chef de Cuisine at Sherwood Inn. “I use it all the time! One recipe I have been experimenting with is a wicked apple-bacon-maple jam we serve with our apple-cheddar stuffed pork chop. I’ve also been making a version of it with sundried strawberries as opposed to apples…its unreal. Great over johnny cake or cornbread with a bit of chocolate sauce!”
1 cup pure maple syrup
½ cup finely chopped smoked bacon
1 tsp minced ginger
¼ cup finely diced red onion
½ cup small diced roma tomato (the riper the better)
½ cup finely chopped sundried strawberries
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
I cinnamon stick
inch of allspice
inch of ground clove
Preparation: In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan, sauté the bacon over medium heat until just starting to get crispy. Pour out almost all the fat, leaving a tablespoon or so. Add the ginger, onion, tomato, and strawberries, constantly stirring until soft. (It will burn VERY easily!)
- Add the maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, pinch of allspice, pinch of clove, and whole cinnamon stick.
- Bring to a very gentle simmer over low heat. Let cook until it reaches a sticky, coat the back of a spoon consistency (around 30 minutes). Again, use caution as it will burn quite easily.
- Serve warm, cold, on toast, on ice cream, cake, whichever way….it is a very versatile sauce!
Maple Creme Brulee from Log Cabin Inn, Parry Sound
A simple twist on a traditional favourite. Also known as how to make a rich dessert even richer!
75 ml pure maple syrup
7 large egg yolks
500ml 35% cream
60 ml sugar
Preparation: Grease six 3/4 cup (175ml) oven-proof ramekins. Place in oven-proof pan large enough to hold ramekins. Whisk egg yolks and maple syrup in large bowl.
Add next two ingredients, whisk until well combined. Divide among ramekins; carefully pour enough boiling water into pan until water comes halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake in 325ºF oven for about 40 minutes until almost set, filling may still wobble in middle but will set upon cooling. Remove from water. Cool completely, cover and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Divide and sprinkle sugar over top, broil on top rack for about 3 minutes until sugar is browned and bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6 people
Pudding Chomeur from Fine Thymes Bistro & Bakery, Bracebridge
Another delicious dish originating from Quebec, baked by Chef Elizabeth with cultural insights from her partner Claude.
1 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Preparation: Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Melt butter in a second bowl. Add remaining ingredients to second bowl and mix well. Mix contents of both bowls well.
Pour 1 cup of pure maple syrup into a “French White” soufflee dish. Pour other mixture on top of maple syrup. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350ºF. Check after 25 minutes, then every 5 minutes until pudding consistency.
(Looking for something less decadent but want the flavour of maple? Try the Maple-Cranberry Dressing at Fine Thymes on your salad – from Elizabeth’s secret recipe.)
Spring Maple Beer by Lake of Bays Brewing Company, Baysville
Chef aren’t the only culinary-minded folks thinking about maple at this time of year. Be sure to sample a “Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale” from the Lake of Bays Brewing Company – specially crafted for the season and made with syrup from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association.
This spring, enjoy scrumptious meals prepared by the many outstanding chefs across the Explorers’ Edge region of Ontario, and be sure to inquire about special dishes featuring maple. You’ll be surprised how many ways there are to savour this iconic sweet treat.
Don’t miss the 1st annual Muskoka Maple Festival in Huntsville on Saturday, April 23, 2016.
FIND MORE MAPLE FUN: Visit a local sugar shack for great family fun! Click here for details. And check out the new maple trail that runs from March 14 – April 23.
Got a maple dish you recently tasted in the Explorers’ Edge region that you’d like to recommend? Email email@example.com – we’re all ears when it comes to great food!