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March 20 is Maple Syrup Day and boy do we have a lot to celebrate. Whether it's slathered over pancakes, added to a spicy barbeque sauce or the sweetness factor for a special dessert, maple syrup is liquid gold. And now's the time of the year when it's being made in North America. While Europe is home to maple trees, the weather there doesn't produce the optimal conditions for collecting sap and producing maple syrup that are present in North America.
Maple sap starts to transform to maple syrup when the sap reaches about 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. The process is time consuming and it usually takes about 36 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. No wonder the stuff is so expensive! But one taste of pure maple syrup is truly bliss. There are four basic grades of maple syrup ranging from US Grade AA -- or Fancy -- that's very light in color to US Grade B that's far darker. I actually prefer a medium amber maple syrup and think that the fancy stuff doesn't have the nice flavor of the darker stuff.
In honor of the maple syrup making season and Maple Syrup Day, I'm offering a few creative and tasty recipes that call for it. While you might find yourself tempted to substitute imitation maple syrup, DON'T! These recipes don't call for large amounts of it and the unique flavors and properties of pure maple syrup really are required. Heck, just break down and get yourself a supply of the stuff and know that you can celebrate Maple Syrup Day in style!