Pure Maple Syrup: The Real Thing
With sugar maple sap about to flow in northern US and Canada, it seems timely to look at this deliciously natural sweetener. The sugars in fruit and honey have provided carbohydrate energy in human diets for millions of years. Sweetness is not a learned taste: everyone could be said to be born with a ‘sweet tooth’. We don’t know why this is so, but it may be related to our brain’s dependence on glucose as its sole source of fuel. What we do know is that our hunter-gatherer ancestors relished honey and other concentrated sources of sugars such as honey ants, dried fruit and maple syrup tapped straight from the tree.
Pure maple syrup (GI 54) was one of the first foods that was glycemic index tested (by Profs David Jenkins and Tom Wolever at the University of Toronto). As demand outstrips supply, it is probably the most expensive sweetener on your supermarket shelf. Made by boiling and concentrating the sap from maple trees, it takes approximately 40 gallons (about 150 litres) of maple sap to make one gallon (about 3½ litres) of pure maple syrup. So beware and be aware and check that label to make sure you are buying ‘Pure Maple Syrup’ as the gap in the market unfortunately is filled by those high GI, corn syrup toppings that have been blended with as little as 3 per cent maple syrup. Not the real thing at all!
Use a little maple syrup instead of sugar or honey in your tea or coffee; to sweeten your porridge oats or low GI breakfast cereal; to drizzle over buckwheat pancakes or a scoop of low-fat vanilla ice-cream. You can also use it to glaze meats such as ham, chicken or pork or vegetables such as sweet potato, yams, parsnips, squash or pumpkin. Or instead of sugar in many recipes from baked beans to rice puddings or muffins. One very simple way is to use maple syrup instead of sugar or honey is in marinades or in dressings.
Balsamic Vinaigrette with Maple Syrup
Try this vinaigrette tossed with a roasted vegetable salad (eggplant/aubergines, zucchini/courgettes, capsicum/peppers, leeks and pumpkin) or add a pasta shapes to make a meal of it. The dressing is also delicious made with a nutty oil such as walnut or macadamia oil. Makes about 1/3 cup (65 ml) dressing, enough for a salad for 4 people.
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, several twists
a pinch of salt (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a screwtop jar and shake well.
Per serving (4 teaspoons)
Energy 368 kJ; Fat 9.1g (Saturated 1.3g); Carbohydrate 1.3g; Dietary fibre 0.2g