I live in Vermont, land of maple. We have maple candies, maple cookies, maple soda, and obviously, maple syrup. Lots of maple syrup. In 2022, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that Vermont produced 2.55 million gallons of maple syrup that year—up 800,000 from the year before. The state is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States and has been since 1916 (though it was out-produced in 1918 and 1926—embarrassing!).
What to do with all that syrup? Sure, you can use it to top pancakes, waffles, and French toast. But there’s a lot more that can be done with maple syrup. Here are a few favorites from my neck of the woods.
Go to enough Vermont restaurants and you will see plenty of meats marinated in maple syrup on the menu. Maple in a marinade doesn’t lead to a sickeningly sweet, pancake-like chicken dish. Just like honey, maple syrup mixes with other marinade-friendly ingredients like garlic, salt, olive oil, and herbs to create a marinade that’s just sweet enough to mingle with the savory notes and enhance them. Here’s a recipe that blends maple and rosemary that I might just have to make for dinner tomorrow night.
There’s a bagel shop in the downtown area where I live that has maple balsamic vinaigrette as its house salad dressing, and once I tried it, I knew why. Although I love to mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a little salt for a quick dinner side salad, a good balsamic vinaigrette begs for something a little sweet to cut the acidity of the vinegar.
If you’d like to try it (you absolutely should), Vermont’s Woodstock Inn provides a recipe for its maple balsamic vinaigrette online. It only contains a tablespoon of syrup to a half cup of vinegar, which makes the maple flavor subtle in the dressing—subtle, but wonderful. One note: I recently bought maple-infused balsamic vinegar thinking it would save me a grocery item when making maple balsamic vinaigrette, but the maple-to-vinegar ratio was off—it was way too sweet to make a good dressing. Best to stick with adding the maple syrup yourself.
If you like sweeteners in your coffee, you might as well try using maple syrup in place of regular old sugar or simple syrup! It’s pretty common in Vermont coffee shops to see maple syrup on the table along with the sweeteners. The same goes for homemade lemonade. At the farmers market in my town, you get to pick whether your lemonade is sweetened with sugar or maple syrup.
An ice cream sundae with a drizzle of maple syrup in place of hot fudge is indeed a delicious combination, so if you’ve never tried it, please do. Top it with some whipped cream and candied walnuts or pecans and you’ve got yourself a really good sundae.
Maple syrup pairs great with vanilla ice cream, which is perhaps the obvious choice, but it also pairs really well with coffee ice cream, which brings me to my next ice-cream related topic: If you are ever in Vermont, make sure you get yourself a maple creemee, something Vermonters will delight in recommending to you, because we truly believe its existence means we have invented the most wonderful thing on earth and we love to tell people about it.
“Creemee” is Vermont speak for “soft serve ice cream,” and while we do have the classic chocolate, vanilla, and twist options, it’s very common for local creemee stands to offer a maple variety. Sometimes, they’ll also offer a coffee flavor, which you can—and should—get as a twist with maple.
One of my favorite fall side dishes is roasted root vegetables, typically a combination of potatoes, carrots, and beets, but I sometimes add parsnips to the mix as well. Many recipes for this delightful, hearty side dish include maple syrup as a sweetener; as with the marinade and salad dressing applications, the syrup here doesn’t result in an overly sweet dish. Instead, it just adds a little pop of flavor that pairs incredibly well with the caramelization you get on the outside of the root vegetables when you roast them. If you’d like to try this at home, here’s a recipe from Vermont’s Harvest Hill Farms.
Okay, okay, we don’t actually drink maple syrup by the glass (or at least I don’t—I can’t speak for others). However, Vermonters are known to drink it straight in small quantities, especially when trying a new syrup. At farmers markets and sugar houses, you can expect to see small white sampling cups sitting next to giant bottles of syrup, which come in different grades. It’s quite common for a bit of syrup to be poured into the cup and handed to you, which you can then drink like a shot to decide whether you like it. Which you will. Trust me.