By Chef Cathy Hohmeyer
Executive Chef, OTR, VGN Member,
Co-Owner Lake Clear Lodge, Adirondack Mountains, NY
(and see the link below : 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup)
What has always been organic / local / sustainable, is one of the oldest food industries in Northern NY and is exclusively made in only a few areas of North America ? It’s our “Liquid Gold” – maple syrup.
Now that it is maple syrup time it makes me thankful for yet another wonderful food source available to us here in the Northern Adirondack Mountains. It has been used as a sweetener and health food for centuries, and is part of the North Country mantra. I have never had the privilege of participating in the whole route – from maple tree stand to collect the sap to standing for hours manning the “sugar shack and seeing the amber liquid transform into yummy maple syrup– but what a way to connect to your roots!! It is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians who used it both as a food and a medicine. It was said to be 12% of the total Native American food diet.
It is agreed that TOO much sugar of any form, even natural, is not a particularly good “health” item. But lets face it – sweet is one of our major taste sensations is it not? Some of the “healthy” diets don’t promote maple syrup because of its high gylcemic level (on its own it raises blood sugar levels quickly). But www.whfoods.com – a website that lists 125 of the “healthiest foods” lists maple syrup as one of them. It gives maple syrup credit for a healthy dose of both manganese and zinc – trace elements good for your immune defense, health of your heart and men – you need to check it our for your prostate! They even call it ”one of the many wonders of the world”!
Years ago, when no other refined sweeteners were readily available, anticipation of spring HAD to include looking forward to the sweet liquid and all the yummy foodstuffs you could make from it.
While cost can certainly seem a factor today even here where it is produced, don’t forget to go with the seasons and make a one of a kind meal for family or friends using maple syrup. Think “out of the breakfast box” when cooking with maple syrup. While a great pancake is only made greater when served with the “real thing” – there is much more to maple syrup than breakfast. Aside from maple candy and maple cream (which you can make or buy), there are some wonderfully creative recipes out there. You can use it as a marinade for fish or meat, or to glaze & caramelize vegetables. And desserts are a given – maple ice cream, maple pudding (with local fresh eggs- yum!) and even maple poached pears.
While sugars are always downplayed in the “healthy” food scene, we a have access to a wonderfully versatile sweetener. It has much more “culinary” potential than we give it credit for and in small amounts, we in the North Country get to satisfy our “sweet tooth” with a natural flavor that many others in the world only get artificially. A little goes a long way.
The Northerners take their tapping very seriously. Nearby my Lake Clear Lodge, at the Paul Smith’s College VIC ( a nearby nature center), you can adopt a maple tree. Your adopted tree gets a drink of water, a bedtime story and loving hug – you get a quart of pure maple syrup!
Follow my Healthy Foods Blog at www.CureCottageCuisine.com
Mar. 30, 2011 — University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has discovered 34 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered last year in preliminary research play a key role in human health.