March 21, 2012

Soup to Nuts: Get real
– maple syrup, that is

Besides its undeniable deliciousness, maple syrup – the genuine article, that is – has all kinds of good things going on, including a boatload of antioxidants.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

One morning last summer, my teenage niece was in the kitchen helping me get breakfast ready for my parents.

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Jeff Buerhaus' pan-seared scallops with maple glaze.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Walter’s chef/owner Jeff Buerhaus brushes his maple glaze on pan-seared scallops. Buerhaus starts the glaze with a good quality maple syrup, thins it a little with fresh lime juice, then adds cumin to taste.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Researcher looks to tap other parts of the maple tree for potential health benefits

Maple researcher Navindra Seeram is now studying other parts of the tree, including the twigs and bark, to see if they also carry potentially beneficial compounds.

Seeram read that American Indians used to grind the bark of the maple tree and use it to make bread. "They would bake and they would cook with it," he said. "They would eat it. They would boil it for a blood purifier. We're looking now into the bark and discovering new compounds. We're looking into the leaves. We got our hands on an old maple that was chopped down on campus, and we got our hands on roots."

Seeram said his lab has already found that some of the anti-diabetic compounds present in maple syrup are also in the bark.

His research has made him wonder if some day maple bark might be developed into a spice like cinnamon, which is also known to help regulate blood sugar.

– Meredith Goad

Sweet-yet-tangy glaze brings out best in pork

Stonewall Kitchen makes its own thick-and-sweet version of a Maine Maple Glaze ($7.50). In addition to maple syrup, it contains honey, brown sugar, orange juice and orange peel, ingredients that help thicken the glaze and add a lot of flavor. The glaze also has a nice bite to it, thanks to the addition of some Dijon mustard, which imparts a tangy twist when it’s brushed on chicken or pork.


Servings: Four

2 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 jar Stonewall Kitchen Maine Maple Glaze

1 orange, sliced into rounds 1/4 inch thick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Add pork tenderloin and sear on all sides until golden brown. Brush entire tenderloin with Maine Maple Glaze. Place orange slices over pork.

Place pork in oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes until the center of the tenderloin registers 160 degrees. Brush with additional glaze two more times during roasting time. Let stand 5 minutes, slice and serve.


I am not a big fan of sweet sauces on fish. But the balance of rich oily salmon balanced by sweet maple syrup and coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper works. The recipe is deceptively simple: Maple syrup is simmered down to a thick glaze and then brushed onto salmon filets. Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper go on top, and the whole thing is placed under the broiler or on the grill. The salmon is basted twice with the reduced syrup. The result: Moist salmon with a sweet and slightly salty glaze. Serve with basmati rice or couscous, or for brunch with fried eggs, biscuits, muffins or crusty bread.

Servings: Two

6 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon olive oil

Two (6- to 8-ounce) salmon filets, or 1 pound salmon cut into two pieces

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Coarsely ground black pepper

Place the syrup in a small saucepan and place over very low heat. Simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until the syrup is thickened and almost reduced by half.

Spread the oil along the bottom of a medium-sized rimmed baking sheet or gratin dish. Place the fish on top, skin-side down. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, lightly brush half the syrup on top of the fish. (If you reduced the syrup and it has "hardened," you'll need to reheat it over very low heat again to liquefy it and make it easy to work with.) Sprinkle the salt and a good grinding of pepper on top, and gently press the salt crystals and pepper into the syrup so they stick.

Preheat the broiler. Alternately, you can heat a gas or charcoal grill and place a grill tray on it (a small perforated grill device that lets you grill something without having it stick). Let the grill get hot, about 400 degrees. Place the fish about four inches under the broiler or place on the hot grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Brush the remaining syrup on top and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove from heat and serve hot.

– From "Notes from a Maine Kitchen" by Kathy Gunst


This recipe comes from "Maine Maple Beyond Pancakes," the cookbook sold by the Maine Maple Producers Association. It's a collection of 179 recipes that use maple syrup as an ingredient. To find out how to order a copy, go to:

Use this delish glaze to baste chicken, salmon, pork or ham while grilling, baking, broiling or sauteing. Omit rosemary, and you have a delightful orange-maple topping to transform the ordinary pudding or plain cake to the extraordinary.

1/4 cup pure Maine maple syrup

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Over low heat, boil orange juice and cider together in small saucepan for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in maple syrup and rosemary. Continue to boil for another 5 minutes, stirring often, until glossy and slightly thickened. This will make enough glaze (approximately 1/2 cup) for two chicken breasts, 1 pound of salmon steaks or filet, or two to three pork chops. Baste meat with glaze the last 10 minutes of cooking. Reserve enough glaze to spoon over meat when ready to serve.


We have used Reed's Maple Pecan Glaze on lamb, pork, chicken, salmon and bacon-wrapped scallops. It's also pretty good on pretzel sticks as a dip.

1 pint maple syrup

1/4 cup whole grain mustard

2 cloves fresh chopped garlic

1 cup pecans

1/4 cup chopped curly parsley (about half a bunch with no stems)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Put the pecans into a food processor and chop until fine. Add maple syrup, mustard, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper into a food processor and puree. I make this up to two weeks ahead of time and keep in a Mason jar in the fridge.

Reed's Maple Pecan Panko-Crusted Pork Chops: Trim, wash and pat pork dry, dust in flour mix (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper). Dip chops on one side with maple glaze. Press maple glaze-side down into Panko bread crumbs. Place on a greased baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with your favorite vegetable and starch.

Reed's Maple Pecan Panko-Crusted Lamb Rack: Trim, wash and pat dry lamb rack, dust in flour mix (1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper). Dip loin into the maple glaze, trying not to get it on the bones. Press loin into Panko bread crumbs. Place on a greased baking pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 to 25 minutes. Serve with your favorite vegetable and starch.

Reed's Maple Pecan Glazed Bacon Wrapped Scallops: Bake bacon-wrapped scallops at 350 degrees until crispy. Remove the toothpicks, drizzle with glaze and enjoy. How to wrap scallops? Get 10 to 15 large scallops and 1 pound thick-cut bacon. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Pull bacon apart and add to boiling water. Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain bacon and let cool to room temperature. Wrap scallops tight using a toothpick to keep them wrapped. (Boiling the bacon makes it crisp without over-cooking the scallops.)

- Chris Gordon, Sea Dog Brewing Co.


Holly lives in Georgia, and we have a good time exchanging food obsessions. Her family sends me things like Georgia peach butter, and in return I send them things like Maine blueberry jam and, for my brother's last birthday, whoopie pies.

"You have such good bread here!" she exclaimed after a week of sampling Standard Baking baguettes and some luna bread from Micucci's.

So I decided to really blow her mind by getting out the maple syrup.

Holly, like most American kids, grew up on the fake stuff made out of corn syrup and "maple flavoring."

I told her to close her eyes and open wide, then put a teaspoon of pure Maine maple syrup in her mouth.

Her eyes grew big, and the expression on her face told me she'd never be satisfied with the fake stuff again.

And now there's even more reason to stick with the real thing and attend Maine Maple Sunday events at participating sugarhouses this weekend: Recent research has uncovered a hidden benefit to eating maple syrup -- it's swimming with antioxidants that may help keep you healthy.

Navindra Seeram, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island, found 54 antioxidants in maple syrup, five of which were new compounds. Several of them are compounds that are reported to have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and anti-bacterial properties.

Seeram said he found the sheer number of antioxidants in syrup to be "mind-boggling."

"What happens is the plant is naturally producing compounds to protect themselves, and these compounds are flowing in sap," Seeram said. "When you're boiling the sap down, when you're reducing it, these natural antioxidants are persisting in syrup. They survive."

Seeram's research was funded by the maple syrup producers of Quebec, so one of the new compounds was named Quebecol. ("I got heat about that too, from Vermont," Seeram said, laughing.).

No one knows if all of these beneficial compounds will actually have some kind of physiological effect in humans, or how much syrup you'd have to eat to benefit from them. That work hasn't been done yet.

Certainly if it's antioxidants you're after, blueberries or some other antioxidant-rich fruit would be a better choice over sugar-laden maple syrup, Seeram acknowledges. But if you choose to use a sweetener of some kind, he said, it's safe to say that pure maple syrup would be a better choice over a store-bought brand that's mostly corn syrup.

That's not a license to use half a jar of maple syrup on your pancakes. Moderation is key.

"It's a sugar, and I've always made that very clear to people," Seeram said. "Drizzle it. Don't pour it on."

It seems to me this is also a good reason to start using maple syrup more often in different ways -- in glazes and sauces that provide the flavor and benefits of maple syrup without overdoing it on the sugar.

Seeram said that's what his own family is trying to do.

"I think that's what should happen," he said. "I think maple needs to expand beyond being on top of your pancakes. It has very unique flavors, right? I think it should be integrated into cooking."

Of course, a lot of Maine chefs are already doing just that, and some have agreed to share their ideas for using it in creative ways.

Jeff Buerhaus, chef/owner of Walter's in Portland, makes a maple glaze for scallops that starts with a good quality maple syrup. He thins the syrup a little with fresh lime juice, then adds a touch of cumin to taste.

Chris Gordon, the chef at Sea Dog Brewing Company in South Portland, makes a maple pecan glaze named after his son Reed, who taps trees with him in their own backyard. The chef uses the glaze (see recipe at right) with pork, lamb and scallops, and even as a dip with pretzels.

Food writer Kathy Gunst and her husband also make their own maple syrup from trees tapped at their home in South Berwick.

"This year's syrup is particularly buttery," she said. "There's this flavor component to it that almost tastes like somebody melted a stick of butter in it. It's insanely good."

Gunst says maple syrup has become "a prized ingredient" for her in savory dishes, and she enjoys experimenting with it in the kitchen.

Maple syrup really brings out the natural sugars in root vegetables, Gunst said, so in winter and early spring, she likes to add a teaspoon or so to a vinaigrette that will go on a roasted vegetable salad. "That little bit of sweetness highlights everything that's going on in the salad," she said.

Maple syrup glazes go particularly well with pork, but also with chicken or duck.

"It gives you that char and that sweet caramelized glaze on top of something," Gunst said. "It's just a great quickie, no-fuss flavor enhancer for a lot of grilled foods. I love using it on salmon."

In a more decadent application, Gunst really enjoys using a little syrup on a thick slab of bacon.

First, simmer a half cup of maple syrup until it thickens enough to coat a spoon well. Thickening the syrup helps it adhere to the bacon, Gunst explained. Spread the maple glaze on the thick bacon, then sprinkle it with a little chili powder or fresh rosemary and grill it. Flip it and do the same to the other side.

Gunst sometimes serves this bacon as an appetizer with cocktails. She also adds the bacon strips to composed salads and crumbles them into chowders and stews.

"You can't go wrong with bacon and maple syrup, ever," she said.


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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Food writer Kathy Gunst says that maple syrup has become “a prized ingredient” for her in savory dishes.

Courtesy photo

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Maple researcher Navindra Seeram

Courtesy photo

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