Move Over Pancakes: Vermont Maple Experts Urge Cooks to Experiment in New Ways

Vermont’s signature taste is increasingly being used in savory dishes and cocktails, maple producers say

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Vermont maple syrup producers want to grow their reputation with consumers and keep interest in maple high by communicating how their product is tasty long after breakfast is over.

“Maple syrup is not just for pancakes,” said Allison Hope with the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association.

Hope told NECN at the height of the maple season that she would like to see people who rediscovered cooking at home during the pandemic keep stocking maple as a pantry staple.

Those consumers could enjoy using maple in place of other sweeteners in a range of recipes, Hope suggested.

“It’s really easy, and it’s fun to experiment,” Hope said.

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The association’s long-term view to promote maple’s versatility as a way to grow interest in and appreciation for the pure, all-natural product follows a disappointing maple season this spring. Weather conditions were unfavorable for collecting sap and producing syrup.

When it comes to seeing maple as a versatile ingredient good for savory dishes, John Patterson is on board. 

The executive chef at Shelburne Farms uses a lot of maple syrup in his dishes, demonstrating for NECN how it was one ingredient in a beef marinade and explaining that he likes how it caramelizes — giving meat a rich brown color.

“It’s a sugar,” Patterson said of maple. “If your recipes are calling for honey or agave or simply sugar, maple syrup is a great substitute for that.”

Maple was more than a $52 million crop for Vermont producers last year, but agriculture leaders see greater appreciation of it as key to adding future value to the rural landscape.

Denise Herrera of Burton's Grill and Red Heat Tavern is in The Chef's Pantry with Anna Rossi to make a Maple Pistachio Salmon.

At the Arcadian in Middlebury, chef-owner Matt Corrente demonstrated how he would grate a solid cube of maple sugar over grilled asparagus to round out the vegetable’s bitter notes.

“It’s sort of the taste of Vermont,” Corrente said of maple. “It certainly gives the food a sense of place.”

Behind the bar at Juniper in Burlington, Colin Walsh shakes up his zippy rum-hibiscus limeade with maple instead of simple syrup, saying it pairs well with dark and light spirits alike and can elevate a non-alcoholic summertime favorite.

“I think start out with a maple lemonade,” Walsh advised people who may be considering how to use maple syrup in beverages. “You can’t mess it up. You just make it to taste. However you like it: if you like it a little sweeter, if you like it a little tarter — go for it!”

The event has to be cancelled last spring and is ready to make a full comeback after the pandemic.

Framing maple syrup as not just for breakfast any more follows previous industry work to educate buyers on how the product is all-natural and labor-intensive to make.

Patterson pointed anyone who wants to try the familiar product in new ways to internet resources including the website of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association, which provides recipes and guidance on how you’d adjust directions to bake with syrup.

“Go and buy a bottle of maple syrup and dive in,” Patterson said.

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