It is time for the first harvest of the year! Yes, maple syrup is running and folks are busy in their sugar shacks preparing the liquid gold. Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup and production is growing. 2022 was the largest production year in history with 211 million pounds of syrup generating 1.1 billion dollars for the Canadian economy. I guess we should all give thanks to the maple forests and to all the producers, large and small, for adding to our culinary delights as well as our economy.
If you watched the Netflix series called “dirty money” you will have seen an episode on the great Canadian maple syrup heist! Over the course of a few months in 2011-12, 9,571 barrels of maple syrup were stolen from a large Quebec storage facility. The take was estimated to be valued at $18 million dollars. The perpetrators were eventually discovered, fined, put on probation, or jailed. Not quite the Great Train Robbery of Great Britain, but still a good story for the Canadian history books. It’s certain this caper underscores how valuable maple syrup is.
There are so many wonderful ways to use maple syrup in cooking, it’s difficult to choose one focus. I think of maple syrup as rich in taste and texture. To me, it has a natural affinity with the richness of conserves.
Conserves are jams kicked up a notch or two. They generally have the addition of dried fruit and/or nuts. Sometimes citrus or spices are added. They can be either sweet or savoury. The sweet ones are excellent with scones or cheeses. Savoury ones are good accompaniments to meats or charcuterie.
Recently I’ve made a couple of great conserves with maple syrup. One combined maple syrup and blueberries with walnuts. It was so good my friend said she simply ate it by the spoonful. This week I made a very nice recipe published by Foodland Ontario for Maple Walnut Pear Conserve (slightly adapted below). Winter pears like Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc are available and can sometimes be found at reasonable prices. Bake up some biscuits or scones and enjoy this winter preserve.
Maple syrup on pancakes or ice cream, thrown in the snow to make maple-sicles, added to a recipe in lieu of brown sugar or profiled in a lovely winter conserve, maple syrup can’t be beat as one of nature’s great gifts.
Maple Walnut Pear Conserve
- Yield 6 cups
- 4 cups chopped peeled winter pears
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 package regular pectin crystals
- 3.5 cups sugar
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup chopped walnuts toasted (option: omit nuts and add ½ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries)
In a pot, mix pears with lemon juice. Stir in pectin with ¼ cup of the measured sugar. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add remaining sugar and return to the boil. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in maple syrup and nuts. Ladle into hot 250 ml jars leaving ¼ headspace. Clean rims of the jars and attach lids and rings to “finger-tip” tight. Process in a water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest in the canner for 5 additional minutes. Remove jars to a heat proof surface and let rest for 24 hours. Check the seal. Label and store.