It’s that time again in Maine, a harbinger of spring, the maple tap! Here’s hoping for those warm days and chilly nights that bring the best yield to our syrup makers here in Maine. I have a friend who calls the process of sugaring “south side soul” because most of the warmth and hence flow happens on the warm southerly side of the trees. I am all for the concept!
Here are a few fun facts about maple sap and sugaring:
A gallon of syrup weighs 11 pounds and yields 8 pounds of sugar.
It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to create one gallon of syrup.
The window for sugaring is about 8-10 weeks.
A tree must be about thirty years old before it is tapped, with a four tap maximum, but can be tapped for up to 150 years! Now that’s a good run.
The most unusual thing I have ever done with maple sugar is to get scrubbed with it at a spa; it is an excellent exfoliant.
In Maine, there will be no “Searching for Sugar Man” because lots of folks do it! And you can find quality products anywhere you see the “Get Maine, Get Real” sign…. I am just plugging my new favorite song by Rodriguez here folks. He never made syrup, I am pretty sure.
BUT, here is one of my favorite and time honored maple recipes. The maple flavor is in the custard and again brûléed on top. Just delightful. You will need a kitchen blow torch.
Maple Crème Brûlée
Laura Cabot, Laura Cabot Catering, Waldoboro
1/2 cup Maine maple syrup
3 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
A little vanilla or vanilla bean scrapings
Granulated maple sugar
Preheat oven to 325°.
Whisk together syrup and eggs.
Combine cream, milk, and vanilla in a heavy saucepan and warm it, bringing it eventually to a boil.
Gradually temper the eggs by whisking the hot milk into them.
Divide into four ramekins and set into a deep pan, adding enough hot water to come up to the halfway point of the custard cups.
Cover pan with foil and bake until set, 45-55 minutes.
Chill, uncovered for several hours (will last a few days under refrigeration, waiting to be finished).
Before serving, top generously with maple sugar and, using a blow torch, burnish the sugar until it makes a crust (a broiler may be used if you do not have a torch).
There is something very special about cracking the sugary glass-like crust to get to the creaminess…. I can’t wait for this year’s syrup so I can make this favorite dessert again!
Laura Cabot is an MF&L columnist and blogger, a French trained chef with a long career as a chef/restaurant owner, and president of Laura Cabot Catering in Waldoboro.