Let’s get this out of the way right now: “If you think maple syrup starts with ‘Log,’ ‘Aunt’ or ‘Mrs.,’ then put this book down and walk away. For the rest of you, let’s talk syrup!”
Thus begins Casey Elsass’s slim tome on maple syrup; the newest release from small-format cookbook publisher, Short Stack (past single ingredient subjects include eggs, prosciutto, buttermilk and broccoli). Having grown up in a sap-centric hamlet of Nashua, New Hampshire, with fond childhood memories of tobogganing, pancake breakfasts and tracing syrup shapes into the snow, he eventually turned his ingrained love of the sweet stuff into Bushwick Kitchen — a line of sugary and spicy crafted-in-Bushwick condiments — which in turn informed not just his new, cinnamon and chili pepper-infused syrups, but the launch of his very first book.
Over the concise span of 50 pages (primarily devoted to 20 recipes, divided into “Breakfast,” “Veggies,” “Meat & Fish,” “Dessert” and “Drinks”), Elsass aims to transmit his passion to the masses, drawing influence from Canadian pub food, Southern slow-roasted meats, New Orleans bars, the Irish spirit world and Japanese culinary traditions, in order to “liberate maple syrup from the pancake box.” That’s not to say there isn’t a solid recipe for Short Stacks in there (how could Elsass resist?) but the mahogany nectar is put to more inspired use in Poutine, gobbed with cayenne-spiked spears of maple-shellacked bacon; as well as Maple Miso Wings, glazed with inky, salty tamari; a Maple Alexander, which imbues the classic cocktail with Chinese five spice and maple liquor; and even a Maple-Poached Lobster Roll, a potentially contentious, distinctly New England spin on surf and turf.
And in case we get another, late-winter storm like Jonas, you might want to keep a bottle of Log Cabin — ahem, we mean Bushwick Kitchen — at the ready, along with the following method for a New Hampshire-style “Sugar on Snow Supper,” courtesy of Elsass seriously sweet syrup guide.
Sugar on Snow Supper (excerpted from Short Stack’s “Maple Syrup,” by Casey Elsass)
At the peak of sugaring season (a quick few weeks in March, sometimes late February, rarely April) in small towns through- out New Hampshire, the community gathers in firehouses, church basements and old meeting halls for a magical event called the Sugar on Snow Supper. After tucking into a traditional New England dinner of beans and franks with brown bread (don’t knock it), it’s time for the main event: a plate of snow, a plain doughnut, a bowl of dill pickles and a cup of steaming hot maple syrup. A gentle pour of the syrup over cold snow creates wonderfully sticky instant-taffy that can be rolled around a fork and eaten.
Before you start planning out your maple-shaped masterpiece, let me share some friendly tips for the maximum Sugar on Snow experience. First, it’s a complete waste of time trying to spell things out. Don’t bother. Second, a circular pour will sit perfectly on the doughnut. Third, nothing unsticks teeth and unsugars tongues like a good munch on a pickle. And finally, the ultimate Casey Elsass pro move: Make a little well in the snow with your index finger, fill it with syrup, insert a toothpick and let it chill for 30 seconds: instant maple lollipop! Just get creative and have fun; it’s the perfect excuse to play with your food, it’s simple to prepare and it’s the ultimate finale. In other words, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t roll out of the kitchen at the end of your next dinner party.
Lots of fresh snow (or finely crushed or shaved ice in a pinch)
4 plain cake doughnuts, or potato donuts without glaze
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup sliced dill pickles
Pack a roasting pan, large salad bowl or cake pan with lots of (clean!) snow. If you live in an apartment, store it in the freezer. If you live in a house, store it outside unless your dog is running around the backyard. Learn from my mistakes.
Pour the maple syrup into a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer and place over high heat. Set out the pickles and doughnuts. When the thermometer reads 230°, send someone to grab your snow pan. When it reaches 240°, immediately pour the syrup into a heat-safe syrup dispenser or creamer and bring it to the table with the pickles and doughnuts. Allow everyone to take turns pouring candy on the snow. Let it cool for a few seconds before peeling off your design and eating.
For more information or to purchase “Maple Syrup,” visit here.
For more information or to purchase Bushwick Kitchen’s Tree’s Knees Maple Syrup, visit here.