Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

No one knows how long the Native American has been harvesting zogalinebi, sweet water, maple sap, from maple trees. Early on, v-shaped incisions were made in the trees, then hollow reeds inserted to direct the sap into birch bark containers. Hot rocks were put into the containers to thicken the sap. Sometimes, it was left to freeze overnight so that a layer of ice which had formed could be removed leaving the sap a bit more thickened. It was a sweet drink, and a wonderful flavor addition to the cook pot.

Before iron pots were introduced, sap was boiled away in fine crafted clay pots. The top of these clay cooking pots were usually incised with a design that indicated the tribal affiliation of its owner. When the Europeans introduced iron and copper pots, the production of maple syrup and sugar became a major part of life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

White sugar was hard to come by, but maple sugar was quite common. It takes 40 gallons of sap boiled down to make one gallon of syrup, so this was a time-consuming endeavor. It was also labor intensive since the sap had to be carried to the fire. The 19th century brought many efficient innovations to the process. Native production was mainly in the Woodland cultural areas of eastern Canada, New England and the Great Lakes.

We have many maple trees on our property and thought it would be nice to try to make some for our family one year. Well, it was, but we learned the hard way why “sugar shacks” were located outside and away from the house. When I boiled the cauldrons of sap on my stove in the house nearly everything became covered with sticky stuff. It took a long time to get rid of.

Pumpkin-Maple Pudding

1 1-pound can of pumpkin

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 egg

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger, ground

1 pinch salt

1/4 cup of fine chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease a 2-1/2 quart baking dish. Using a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, maple syrup, milk, egg, egg whites, flour, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Whisk all together until smooth. Pour into the greased baking dish and bake for one hour. Sprinkle with the nuts and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and let cool before putting in the fridge for a few hours to chill. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Maple-Apple Pudding

4 medium apples, (Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Empire …) peeled, cored and sliced thick

1 cup real maple syrup

1 egg

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup raisins

1 pinch of salt

Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan. Place the apple slices in the pan and pour 1/2 cup of the maple syrup over them, stirring to coat the apples and keep them in a flatish even layer. Using a bowl, beat the egg and stir in the butter, lemon juice and 1/2 cup maple syrup. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry mixture to the syrup mixture to make a smooth batter.

Gently fold in the raisins and spoon this batter evenly over the sliced apples. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is lightly brown. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Maple & Cranberry Sauce for Meat

This sauce is especially delicious on roast pork tenderloin.

1 shallot, chopped fine

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup cranberry juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the shallot in the butter for a minute or two. Add the maple syrup and cook to reduce and slightly caramelize. Add wine and cook on high until that is reduced by half. Mix the cornstarch and cranberry juice in a separate bowl and add into the pan while slowly stirring. Continue stirring until slightly thickened. Now add the dried cranberries, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Maple Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup maple syrup (or sugar)

Whip the cream and just as soft peaks are forming, drizzle in the maple syrup (or sugar) and continue whipping until spoonable. This is heaven on cold, cooked wild rice.

Notes & Tips

* Read the labels carefully when you buy maple syrup. Many brands are a mixture of cane sugar and very little maple syrup. 100 percent maple syrup will be more expensive, but is worth it.

* Good quality maple syrup is light in color. Darker syrup is still good, but not as delicate in flavor as the light. Keep the syrup in a cool, dark place and then in the fridge once opened.

* Sometimes I’m skeptical about e-mails I get that claim to be factual truths like:

The liquid inside young coconuts can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.

Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes.


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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson