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Puttin' on The Mitts: Maple syrup: It's not just for pancakes

This setup shows how Travis Grimler tapped maple trees this spring. The sap is boiled down to make maple syrup. Travis Grimler/Echo Journal

After receiving a request for maple syrup recipes from Fran W. at the Everything Expo in March, we knew exactly who to turn to for answers.

We decided to "tap" into the brain behind the Echo Journal's Grim's Grub columnist Travis Grimler, who recently published a column about this very topic.

Keep in mind, tapping maples is seasonal and he wrote his column toward the end of that season. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the typical tapping season in the state runs from March 15 through today. A warmer spring this year appears to have put a stop to things early, however.

"Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing," the DNR website states. "This cycle of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights needs to continue for several days, although nature occasionally has been known to provide a good run under less perfect conditions."

One of Travis' recipes also calls for a pan of clean snow, and while the recipe sounds interesting, we're hoping you'll just pack that one away as we don't want to see any more snow until at least early December. Yes, we just knocked on wood.

You don't need to be as ambitious as Travis to try out the recipes—no tapping required to enjoy some delicious candy or caramel treats.

We'll continue answering cooking questions we received through our recent giveaway through the next several weeks, along with sharing related recipes. We love our readers, so thanks for taking part!

- DeLynn and Chelsey

So, it is that time of year again, possibly even the tail end, weather pending (I'm new at this so I don't know). It's time to tap maples.

This is the first year I have experimented with this. I acquired a commercial deep fryer in the last year and modified it a great deal to make a self-contained propane evaporator with a drain. I don't know if this will turn out to be a brilliant idea or just a so-so one, but I am guessing it will pass for a second stage evaporator for a couple years, maybe even a first stage evaporator until I get something bigger set up.

The concept of maple production is fantastic, if you ask me. It is a great tradition. You make something delicious and the end result must be very satisfying to justify the work being put into it. I've had the stuff produced by Randy Schwegel as well as that produced by Jim Fruth. Both are delicious.

I don't want to compete with them, but I've always been fond of producing my own food.

At Bemidji State University, I had a teacher for several years who wrote a sort of memoir about harvesting and processing syrup. Susan Hauser was a fantastic nonfiction writer who often focused on things close to my heart, including wild rice, maple syrup and poison ivy, though I'd rather keep the last one away from any part of my body. I made absolutely sure to have her autograph the books I bought with her name in them.

I also have a great deal of fondness for combining those things I've harvested for myself. I'm still experimenting to find a way to make wild rice cereal without using oil (and slightly sweetened with maple syrup). I like the idea of making hazelnut brittle with maple sugar, and if I ever make my way to the West Coast for a visit again, I intend to find some way to bring my maple evaporator so I can make sea salt for maple salted caramel.

Yes indeedy, I'm kind of a foodie like that.


Courtesy of

  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • Candy molds (optional)

In a large-bottomed saucepan, bring pure maple syrup to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.

Boil until the temperature reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and cool to 175 degrees without stirring, then rapidly stir with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, or until the color turns lighter and creamier.

Stir in chopped nuts.

Pour into molds, and set aside to cool.


Adapted from a recipe on The Kitchn

  • 8 ounces pure maple syrup
  • Pan of clean snow packed into a metal baking sheet

In a saucepan with a pouring lip, bring syrup to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once the temperature reaches 235 degrees, take off the heat and drizzle the syrup over the packed snow in long strips.

Either let the syrup cool completely, or quickly stick a popsicle stick into it and roll it to make irregular sugar pops.


From Rodale's Organic Life

  • 1 cup heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)
  • 1 cup local honey, real maple syrup or a combination
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, can also use 1 tablespoon espresso powder or cocoa powder)

Put cream in a small saucepan or microwavable glass measuring cup and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine remaining ingredients.

Heat over medium heat until bubbles appear.

Adjust heat so the sugar does not foam up.

Cook while stirring frequently until the temperature registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer (10-15 minutes).

Heat cream on low heat either on the stove or in the microwave until bubbles form around the edges.

Slowly pour cream into the cooking sugar while stirring.

Bring temperature back up while frequently stirring as it thickens.

This mixture can be used to make caramel syrup by bringing it to between 230-235 degrees and removing.

Soft caramel candy can be made by bringing it to 245 degrees and then pouring it into an oiled pan before cooling at room temperature approximately 24 hours.

Hard candy can be made by heating to 295 degrees before dropping spoonfuls of the hot syrup onto lined baking sheets or into candy molds.

This same mixture can be used to make nut brittle by stirring in 1-2 cups nuts (hazelnuts or black walnuts to keep it local) and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

It will expand quickly.

Quickly pour onto a greased or lined baking sheet.

- Travis