Updated: April 28, 2013 2:19AM
While the ground is still hard and covered with an icy rug of snow, it’s time to tap into the gritty soul of late winter. Beneath a maple syrup moon, the knotty scars of yesteryear’s taps are present on century-old trees, beckoning to be reopened once more. It’s March and it’s maple syrup time.
Fervent fans of the stuff tread out on the frostiest of morns, bucket in hand, for a chance to exhume the stuff. The entire event — from tree to jar — takes a lot of time and patience, making you wonder if the old adage “as slow as molasses” wouldn’t be more meaningful if it were changed to include maple syrup instead. But in the end, the sticky river is liquid gold: a sap with a flavor finer than some of the most delicate flavors of the world. And it’s purely ours, this North American specialty.
Because of its high sugar content, maple syrup often gets stuck in the dessert category. Whether popping up in the middle of hand-dipped chocolates, getting gritty in the midst of walnut fudge or topping fancified pancakes, maple syrup is an iconic sweet. But thrown into the savory ring — glazing pork, slicking down yams or earthing up a bisque — maple syrup still shines.
Mellow in its sweetness but rich in its flavor, a half-cup of maple syrup marries so well to the mild and rustic flavors in a butternut squash soup. As it teams up with fresh ginger and fresh sage, the trio is a tour de force working as both a sweetening agent and a mix of winter flavors.
It’s key to use pure maple syrup in this recipe and a waste to use anything artificial. If it’s available, use something fresh and local; the strength of the flavor will make such a difference in this soup. Pure maple syrup might bump up the grocery bill for this recipe into double digits, but to taste the flavors of those frosty morns, of a maple syrup moon — the flavors of March — those are bucks well spent.
MAPLE, CORN AND
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed, and roasted
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, cubed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped finely
3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
2 cups frozen corn
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh sage or chives, optional
In a large saucepan over high heat, heat oil. Add squash, onion, celery, garlic, sage, ginger and pure maple syrup. Cook and stir for about 6 minutes. Add chicken broth and corn. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Simmer 5 minutes.
Remove mixture to a blender. Purée until creamy, adding broth or water to reach desired consistency. Return purée to pot and add cream. Add salt and pepper; stir and cook over medium heat 5 minutes.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with sage or chives, if desired.
Adapted from “Maple Corn and Butternut Squash Soup Recipe,” Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, December 2012