10 Things Made from Maple Syrup

Stamford Museum & Nature Center via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Stamford Museum & Nature Center via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The most common use for maple syrup is, of course, on pancakes, but there are plenty of other ways to use the sweet stuff. It’s a wonderful way to flavor and sweeten recipes, and maple syrup can be further refined to make other products. Many of Canada's most memorable souvenir items, whether it's candles or cookies, feature maple syrup flavors and themes. 

True maple syrup comes from the sap harvested from maple trees, and some communities even make a festival out of the sap harvesting season. Quebec is the world’s leading producer—it's so large it hosts the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. This year, Canada produced 13.5 million gallons of sap. Here are some of the ways they used it.

1. MAPLE BUTTER

Maple butter, also called maple cream, is a spreadable maple product that’s extremely sweet and cherished by maple fans. To make it, syrup is boiled until it reaches the soft ball stage, then cooled and stirred. The sugar will partially crystallize, and the result is syrup in a form that won’t roll off your toast. Food52 has instructions for maple butter with a tiny bit of cream or oil added for consistency. You can also make it with no other ingredients at all.

2. MAPLE LIQUEUR

Pearl Pirie via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Perhaps the most Canadian drink possible, maple liqueur is made by mixing Canadian whiskey with maple syrup. It’s not normally found bottled in liquor stores because it’s so easy to make at home, but more and more distillers are experimenting with it as word gets out in other countries. You can use it as flavoring for several beverages, like coffee, or in mixed drinks.

3. MAPLE SUGAR

Maple sugar is the granular result of boiling all the water out of maple syrup. Making it is tricky, as the syrup can burn when the water content gets low. First Nations people made maple sugar because it weighs less and lasts longer than maple syrup. Maple sugar can be used as a substitute for granulated cane sugar, and will give your recipe a little more flavor.  

4. MAPLE TAFFY

MartialArtsNomad.com via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

In her book Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder told us how her Pa would gather maple sap, and when the syrup was ready, they’d drizzle it over a pan of snow and let it harden into candy. This is maple taffy, malleable enough to wrap around a stick and chewy enough to last a long time. If you aren’t boiling down your own sap, you’ll need to heat the maple syrup to make maple taffy at home. Here are some instructions

5. MAPLE BEER

A number of craft brewers are now making beer with maple syrup. Despite what you may think, maple beer is not any sweeter than other beers. The yeast ferments away the sugar, while leaving just a bit of maple flavor, and brewers must work to play up the maple notes. Because maple syrup is relatively expensive, the beverage remains something of a niche product.

6. MAPLE BARBECUE SAUCE

shivery timbers via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Barbecue sauce is one of the many recipes that can be enhanced with maple sugar or maple syrup in place of cane sugar. There are plenty of different ways to make maple barbecue sauce, but here’s one basic recipe to get you started.

7. MAPLE COOKIES

Maple leaf cream cookies, like these, are a Canadian favorite. In 2009, President Obama made local headlines when he purchased three maple leaf-shaped shortbread cookies at Le Moulin de Province bakery in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. Despite their shape and royal red icing, the cookies contained no actual maple flavoring, which seems like a pity. Of course, you can make many maple syrup-sweetened cookies at home. This recipe, for Canadian Maple Cookies, contains three kinds of sugar: maple syrup, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. 

8. HOT MAPLE TODDY

Patrick Truby via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

This classic recipe for a hot toddy contains whiskey, lemon, butter, and maple syrup in place of the honey you may be more familiar with. If you want the evening to last longer, you might want to add some hot water or tea to the recipe.

9. MAPLE BARS

Danielle Chang via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A maple bar is an oblong doughnut covered in maple icing or maple butter. A modern—and decadent—twist is to add a slice or two of bacon to the top. Although you'll find them at many bakeries, they are also fairly easy to make at home using canned biscuit dough, and the icing is even easier if you have maple butter on hand.

10. MAPLE SYRUP SOAP

Maple syrup is used in soaps for its scent, but to make sure yours is made with real maple syrup instead of an artificial scent, you can make it at home. The small amount of syrup added to a neutral soap base won’t leave your skin sticky, but it is supposed to have some moisturizing effect.

What's the Difference Between Apple Juice and Apple Cider?

iStock/Alter_photo
iStock/Alter_photo

In a time before pumpkin spice went overboard with its marketing, people associated fall with fresh apples. Crisp and fresh, they practically beg to be crushed and pulped into liquid. But what’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

According to the state of Massachusetts, home to a variety of apple-picking destinations, both apple juice and apple cider are fruit beverages. But apple cider is raw, unfiltered juice—the pulp and sediment are intact. To make cider, the apples are ground into an applesauce-like consistency, then wrapped in cloth. A machine squeezes the layers and strains out the juice into cold tanks. That’s the cider that ends up on store shelves.

Apple juice, on the other hand, takes things a step further—removing solids and pasteurizing the liquid to lengthen its shelf life. It’s typically sweeter, possibly with added sugar, and may lack the stronger flavor of its relatively unprocessed counterpart. It’s also often lighter in color, since the remaining sediment of cider can give it a cloudy appearance.

But that’s just the Massachusetts standard. Each state allows for a slight variation in what companies are allowed to call apple cider versus apple juice. The cider may be pasteurized, or the cider and juice may actually be more or less identical. One company, Martinelli’s, states in its company FAQ that their two drinks are the same in every way except the label: "Both are 100 percent pure juice from U.S. grown fresh apples. We continue to offer the cider label since some consumers simply prefer the traditional name for apple juice."

The US Apple Association, a nonprofit trade organization that represents growers nationwide, indicates that apple juice can be made from concentrate, which is why you might see water as the first ingredient on the label. Generally, cider is the hard stuff: Crushed apples with minimal processing. Because it can ferment, it's usually found refrigerated. Apple juice can often be found elsewhere in stores, where it can remain stable.

Which you should buy comes down to personal preference. Typically, though, recipes calling for apple cider should use apple cider. Processed juice may be too sweet an ingredient. And you can always try making a pumpkin spice hot apple cider, although we may stop talking to you if you do.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Europe's First Underwater Restaurant Is Now Taking Reservations

MIR, Snøhetta
MIR, Snøhetta

The choppy waters off Norway's coast may not seem like the most relaxing dining atmosphere, but thanks to the work of the architecture firm Snøhetta, the North Sea is now home to the region's hottest new restaurant. Under, Europe first underwater restaurant (and the world's largest), opens next year, as Forbes reports—and reservations are already filling up fast.

From the shore, Under looks like some sort of toppled ruin jutting out of the water. Guests enter at sea-level, then descend to the champagne bar and finally to the 100-person dining room, which is submerged 18 feet beneath the ocean's surface. From their seats, diners can gaze through the restaurant's 36-foot-by-13-foot panoramic window. Lighting installed both inside the room and along the seabed outside illuminates nearby marine life, providing a stunning underwater show any time of day or night.

A rendering of the top of Under jutting out of the ocean
MIR, Snøhetta

In addition to designing Under to be a breathtaking experience, Snøhetta built the restaurant to durable. The building's 3-foot thick walls protect guests and staff from water pressure and violent tides. The architects were so sure of the restaurant's safety that they intentionally built it in notoriously rough waters near the town of Båly off Norway's southern coast. According to Snøhetta's senior architect Rune Grasdal, a storm is the best time to dine if guests want a truly dramatic view.

A rendering of the exterior of the underwater restaurant
MIR, Snøhetta

The over-the-top atmosphere will be accompanied by a world-class meal. The seasonal menu comes from Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and dishes are served over the course of three-and-a-half to four hours.

Under doesn't open to the public until April 2019, but the restaurant is already taking reservations. Adventurous diners can attempt to book a table here, or, for parties larger than eight, email the restaurant.

[h/t Forbes]

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