CASA GRANDE -- During the long, hot months of summer, few desserts hit the spot like ice cream. And when I was recently given a jar of pure maple syrup harvested from my sister and brother-in-law’s backyard trees in Maine, I knew right away what I wanted to make with it: maple syrup ice cream.

There’s nothing like home-harvested maple syrup.

My older sister, Michelle Menard, and her husband, Dennis Menard, have nearly 50 sugar maple trees in their backyard. On a chilly Maine morning in March, they gathered several friends along with their kids and grandchildren and put taps in 42 of the trees to harvest maple sap.

Once a tap is installed in the tree, the sweet clear-colored sap drips from the trees into a bucket.

After harvesting, the sap is boiled outdoors until much of the water evaporates, resulting in the light-brown-colored syrup commonly drizzled on pancakes.

It takes a lot of sap to make maple syrup. From their 42 taps, the Menards harvested 60 gallons of sap. It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to get one gallon of syrup.

Once the syrup was finished, it was cooled and then transferred to pint-sized storage containers. Much of it was given away to friends and family.

Maple syrup can be used like any sweetener. It can be added in place of sugar in baked goods, sauces or snack mixes or drizzled over vegetables for roasting.

It’s also a good source of vitamins and nutrients, including zinc, so using it in place of sugar can give the immune system a boost.

And of course, it can be used to make maple syrup candy. Originally, I had hoped to make maple syrup candy for this article, but in looking up a few recipes, I was a bit intimidated. Candy can be tough to make and there are so many ways it can go wrong. I didn’t want to waste the small amount of backyard-harvested maple syrup on a recipe that could easily have become a failure.

But ice cream is easy to make and it’s always delicious.

The Menards often drizzle maple syrup onto vanilla ice cream to add a touch of sweetness. This recipe for maple syrup ice cream blends the syrup right in.

Ice cream recipes usually have quite a bit of sugar. This recipe has no granulated sugar, but instead, is sweetened with a cup of maple syrup. It’s the first ice cream I’ve ever made that did not include granulated sugar, and it’s amazingly sweet.

If you’re not lucky enough to have family who harvest their own maple syrup, any store-bought, high-quality Grade A syrup may be used.

Maple syrup ice cream

6 egg yolks, beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1½ cups half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup Grade A-quality maple syrup

In a medium size pan, heat maple syrup. Once syrup is warm, add cream and half-and-half, then salt. Stir. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks.

When cream mixture reaches boiling point, reduce heat. Using a ladle or measuring cup, whisk some of the hot cream into the eggs. Whisk well. Repeat process a few times until eggs are warm. Pour egg-cream mixture into pan on the stove and mix well. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.

Remove from heat and chill for about four hours.

When the mixture is chilled, pour into ice cream maker and follow directions for churning.

Maple syrup brownies

½ cup butter

1/3 cup cocoa

2 eggs

1 cup maple syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup flour

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture into an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan.

Bake for 30 minutes at about 350 degrees.

Maple roasted carrots

2 pounds of carrots, cleaned and trimmed

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt to taste

Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread carrots on foil and top with butter, brown sugar, syrup, pepper flakes and salt. Toss to combine.

Bake for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees, tossing every 20 minutes. Drizzle with additional syrup if desired.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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