A trip to a maple sugar bush is a springtime necessity, and really the only way I ever get the opportunity to indulge my sweet tooth with some maple taffy. I love sitting down to a gluten-free pancake meal topped with fresh maple syrup, and a particular favourite of mine is to dip my bacon in maple syrup. It gets me some odd looks but I can’t imagine a better combination than bacon and maple syrup – sweet and salty!
Maple syrup (while delicious!) isn’t a new concept when it comes to toppings on pancakes, or maple desserts, but a recent trip to a Lanark County sugar bush, Fortune Farms, yielded some interesting sampling of maple products I would never have thought of – products like maple mustard, maple vinegar, and maple butter to name a few. While I was skeptical at first, a sample was all it took to convert me to the pleasures maple can offer for more than just pancakes.
Maple butter isn’t that uncommon, I’d heart of it, even if I hadn’t sampled it, but maple mustard? Maple vinegar? I wasn’t so sure. I was pleasantly surprised to find maple mustard the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, and what I suspect will be a perfect pairing when making salad dressings or to accompany barbecued pork chops or chicken dishes.
If you’ve ever tasted apple cider vinegar straight you’ll find maple vinegar very similar, but with a sweeter edge that adds more complexity to the flavours. I can see using maple vinegar in place of apple cider or balsamic vinegar in dressings and marinades, for salads or meats, or for pasta salad dishes.
The owner of Fortune Farms, Ray Fortune, was happy to share his knowledge about maple syrup making, and the products like maple mustard and vinegar, and how he has experimented over the years to find the perfect recipes. When I left the sugar bush I may have had more products in my bag than I’d intended to purchase, along with the inspiration to do some experimenting on my own and explore the often overlooked world of maple syrup.
And the best part about maple syrup? It’s naturally gluten free!