The first book that I checked out of the Norwich Public Library was a Vermont cookbook entitled, In a Vermont Kitchen. I wanted to immerse myself in the local culture as quickly as possible and recipes, food and eating seemed like a great way to do that. We had a good laugh because it seemed as if every single recipe had apples and maple in one form or another (syrup, sugar, etc.) as ingredients. As an aside: I have to admit that the apples here taste better than any I have ever eaten before. There are varieties I’ve never seen either.They are much smaller and often they are both red, green and pink. They barely resemble the five inch tall, dark ruby Red Delicious that I used to buy at the grocery store in Alexandria. And thank goodness because there is so much more flavor packed into these sweet little balls. Plus, they are petite enough to pack in the girls lunch boxes!
Maple is a whole other matter around here. From what I’ve researched, Native Americans first discovered the sweet sap after whacking a tomahawk into a tree that happened to have a little bowl of bark sitting on the roots that collected it. The wife of the axe wielding Chief thought it was water and poured it into the pot of meat she was cooking only to be delighted by the sugary glaze that resulted. European settlers wrote that the maple syrup helped sustain the Native populations through the long winters. The Settlers are credited with creating spouts to place in the trees, covered buckets below and eventually boilers housed in sugar shacks. Since the state’s population wasn’t terribly close to a port where they could buy white sugar they began to depend on the maple version. Hence, over the centuries it made its way into many local recipes.
Vermont’s sugar houses are still producing syrup, granulated maple sugar and other sweet treats. They are open year round, but the smoke really starts puffing from the sugar house roof stacks just as winter is waning. The annual Sugar Maker Open House is March 28 and 29, 2015 and there are a number that are well worth driving along the back roads of the Upper Valley to check out. Some sugar makers have as many as 60,000 taps and in 2010, Vermont harvested 890,000 gallons of maple syrup, according to the Vermont Sugar Makers Association.
Back to the cookbook – I found a recipe for Maple Roasted Nuts that I consistently make now because our entire family is addicted to them. I’m going to share it with you and hope that you like it just as much.
Maple Roasted Nuts
2 cups almonds
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. almond or corn oil
2 Tbsp. water
¼ cup maple sugar
½ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast them for 12 minutes. While they roast mix the maple sugar and salt in a large (1 quart) metal or glass bowl.
In a saucepan combine the honey, oil and water. Bring it to a boil over med-high heat and add the almonds. Boil stirring until all the liquid is absorbed but be careful not to burn the almonds as I did on my first batch! Add the warm almonds to the bowl and mix them until they are covered in the sugar and salt. Next, spread them out on a piece of parchment paper on the counter to let them cool. Once they are cool they can be put into an airtight container.
If you try this at home – please comment and let us know how they turn out.