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Let’s Talk Flavoured Maple Syrup: Not a Case of Cultural Appropriation #PureInfused

Maple Char-Siu Pork Back Ribs Served with Brussels Sprout Leaves and Double Cooked Chips Maple Char-Siu Pork Back Ribs Served with Brussels Sprout Leaves and Double Cooked Chips
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Every year, during the weeks leading up to Halloween, there echoes a familiar warning to anyone cobbling together materials for their costumes. Be wary of promulgating tired stereotypes by appropriating another culture’s dress. Accordingly, “Indian brave” outfits of tan-coloured chaps, colourful beads, primary-coloured face paint, and faux feathered headdresses are cliché. They should be avoided, especially if made from Dollar-store gleanings. Along the same lines, you’d best not opt for a mash-up of traditional Japanese geisha and 1980s supermodel. Keep that fluorescent pink bath robe in the bedroom.

Food-wise, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver faced public backlash for the twist on what he felt were the characteristic flavours and textures of Ghanian “Jollof rice,” a much loved African dish tradition. Taking what seems like inspirations from Spanish paella and Italian risotto, the recipe angered many, causing heated discussions about “bastardizing” ethnic dishes. Writer Jonny Garrett wrote up the recipe for Oliver’s site, explaining Jollof rice has enjoyed some regional specialization throughout Western Africa (Gambia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone). More of a “concept,” the tradition varies based on available ingredients and differing tastes. Oliver’s take is much milder than typical recipes online, almost devoid of spice. Some explained his take was more Nigerian than Ghanian. Others were less generous, accusing Oliver of exploiting a culture he doesn’t care to understand.

Why the somewhat uncomfortable discussion about cultural appropriation?

I was accused of such when I accepted a challenge to cook with Pure Infused Maple Syrup‘s line of syrups. Jarred in very handsome bottles and arriving corked, the gently flavoured syrups are made in Nova Scotia, using high quality maple syrup produced by farms like Hutchinson Acres. While Pure Infused does retail unadulterated Hutchinson Acres maple syrup, their main product line includes the following: Vanilla, Cinnamon and Star Anise; Lavender & Chai; Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cloves; Chipotle and Lemon Grass; and a classically French “gastrique” made with apple cider vinegar and ginger.

Japadogs with Maple Mayo

Japadogs with Maple Mayo

Pure Infused Apple and Ginger Gastrique

Pure Infused Apple and Ginger Gastrique

[with caramelized onions, pork floss, and Nori]

Pure Infused Chipotle and Lemongrass Maple Syrup

Pure Infused Chipotle and Lemongrass Maple Syrup

“I’m French Canadian. This is slightly upsetting,” said Celine.

“I’m quasi French Canadian. I don’t think maple syrup needs anything added to it either,” echoed Christine.

“NOPE,” continued Kat

“Yeah, I enjoy the concept, but I can’t get behind this really,” commented Joel.

“As a Canadian expat, I’m with [Celine],” sided Jennifer.

There was even a hashtag: “#dontmesswithmaple”

Having been born and raised in Ottawa, a city that happens to straddle the provincial border, I am not ignorant of the strong cultural connection between the maple syrup tradition and Quebec. I have samples of every grade (old Canadian standard), purchased during the past three years of production. Like wine, winters with little snow and “precipitation” produce what I feel is more intensely flavoured syrup. I am familiar with the difficulties facing Quebec maple syrup producers due to regulation by the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec. I followed the developments as law enforcement tracked down the 10,000 barrels of maple syrup stolen from Quebec’s provincial stockpile. I understand Quebec has lost ground in recent years to American maple syrup producers like Vermont.

Moreover, I have partaken of maple syrup tastings in Montreal. I have visited my share of sugar shacks in both provinces, including Martin Picard’s cabane à sucre Au Pied de Cochon. [My copy of the Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack cook book is signed by the mad but brilliant chef himself.] There is a bottle of Sortilege (maple whiskey) amongst my liquor stash. I have traveled to Europe where Canadian maple syrup is a very expensive premium product.

Neither I nor Pure Infused are “messing with maple.” Their products are marketed as “infused.” Canada produces 71% of the world’s maple syrup, 90% of which is produced in Quebec. A small maritime company has taken a small quantity of maple syrup and infused it with flavours those of us who use maple syrup in our cooking normally employ anyway: herbs and spices.

Speaking of which, while the Hutchinson Acres website explains how to cook with maple syrup

  • To replace honey with maple syrup, use a 1:1 ratio, 1 cup of maple syrup for 1 cup of honey.
  • To replace sugar with maple syrup in your cooking, use ¾ cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar. Decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup for each cup of syrup you use.
  • If you are using maple sugar, use a 1:1 ratio, 1 cup of maple sugar for every cup of sugar in your recipe.
  • Maple syrup is slightly acidic – if you are adding maple syrup to a batter, this may affect how it rises. Neutralize the acidity by adding ¼ to ½ Tablespoon of baking soda to your batter.
  • We recommend you reduce the oven temperature by about 25°C – maple syrup caramelizes at a lower temperature than sugar.

…many of the Pure Infused suggestions for employing their syrups include drenching pancakes, waffles, or French toast; pairing with cheeses; employing in desserts like panna cotta or creme brulee; sweetening teas and coffees; glazing grilled foods; or adding to stir fries.

Japanese "Cotton-style" Cheesecake

Japanese “Cotton-style” Cheesecake

[with Buttered Cereal Crumb crust; Granola; Blueberries; and Pure Infused Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Cloves Maple Syrup]

Pure Maple wanted to learn how we would use their syrups.

I’ve infused maple syrup with flavours as I have infused oils and spirits (like vodka). I use maple syrup as a natural sweetener.

Dish 1: Maple Chile Wings (schmaltz-based vinaigrette)

Maple Chile Wings

Maple Chile Wings

Pan-Frying Leftover Deep Fried Chicken Wings

Pan-Frying Leftover Deep Fried Chicken Wings

Liquid Shmaltz (Rendered Chicken Fat)

Liquid Shmaltz (Rendered Chicken Fat)

Pure-Infused Chipotle and Lemongrass Maple Syrup

Pure-Infused Chipotle and Lemongrass Maple Syrup

Whisk into a Vinaigrette

Whisk into a Vinaigrette

What You’ll Need:

  • A dozen split and deep fried chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup liquid schmaltz (heated)
  • 1/2 cup Pure Infused Chipotle and Lemon Grass maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Add the liquid ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk to form an emulsion.
  2. Lightly coat the wings.
  3. Serve.

Dish 2: Maple Char-siu Pork Back Ribs

Maple Char-siu Pork Back Ribs

Maple Char-siu Pork Back Ribs

[with Brussels sprout leaves and double cooked chips]

What You’ll Need:

  • One rack of brined and marinated pork back ribs as per this recipe.
  • Pure Infused vanilla, cinnamon, and star anise maple syrup

Method:

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F.
  2. Slow roast the back ribs over a basin of water for 2 hours.
  3. During the last hour, baste the ribs with the infused maple syrup every twenty minutes.
  4. Serve.

This can also be accomplished on a cold portion of a gas (turn off a burner or two) or charcoal grill (pile the charcoal on one side).

Brined, Marinated, and Braised Pork Back Ribs

Brined, Marinated, and Braised Pork Back Ribs

Served

Served

Dish 3: Maple Mayonnaise for “Japadogs”

Japadogs with Maple Mayo

Japadogs with Maple Mayo

[with caramelized onions, pork floss, and Nori]

Maple Mayo

Maple Mayo

Japadog Ingredients

Japadog Ingredients

What You’ll Need:

  • egg yolk
  • whole egg
  • 4 tbsp Pure Infused Apple and Ginger Gastrique (maple syrup, ginger, apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 cups canola oil

Method:

  1. Place everything except the oils into a blender.
  2. Pulse everything together.
  3. Turn the blender on low.
  4. Drizzle in the oils.

Use the mayo to dress hot dogs. Top with fried onions, pork floss, and nori.

Choosing less orthodox applications, I hoped to demonstrate Pure Infused makes versatile syrups that imbue both complex sugars and other flavours to dishes. Made with quality darker (not quite amber) maple syrup, it is actually nice to purchase infusions (and a gastrique) I don’t have to make myself. Highly recommended!

Aside: A spice-infused maple syrup happens to go very well with fried chicken and waffles, as was demonstrated to us this past weekend at Union Local 613 (315 Somerset Street W.).

Fried chicken and waffle sandwich - $13

Fried chicken and waffle sandwich – $13

Spiced Maple Syrup

Spiced Maple Syrup

[with sunny-side egg, pickled green tomato, spicy maple syrup, iceberg, home fries]

I hope owner Ivan Gedz or his chef Darren Flowers aren’t be accused of “messing with maple.”

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.