Today’s TBT Cookbook Review is just a month or so ahead of time. Soon the sap will be rising and this year’s vintage of maple syrup will be fresh and delightful. Here’s an entire book on how to enjoy maple syrup year round. It’s NOT just for those December and January pancakes. From 2014, I offer you:

Some things are better done young. Really young. Trying to learn a language after you are about fifteen can be a struggle. A five-year-old can learn a new tongue in a flash, seemingly without effort. To be fifteen and already “old” in some sense is disheartening.

The same with food. In France, children in primary school are “educated” in cuisine, learning for example to relish bread, real bread, not Wonder Bread. Those early sensory experiences last a lifetime, and the training will affect decades of food choices and enjoyment.

So, if you are American, what food lessons did you learn early on? I know mine include maple syrup. Served on the weekend for those long breakfasts with pancakes or waffles, bacon or sausage. I always loved taking my bites of sausage, rolling them in maple syrup until they were perfectly coated, and then snapping my fork to my mouth. I tried not to sacrifice one drop of that syrup from the sausage and onto the table or onto me. I always failed.

For many of us, maple syrup is synonymous with breakfast. We discount the service maple syrup can render. Way back in 1989, Ken Haedrich wrote the Maple Syrup Cookbook demonstrating that, from appetizers through dessert, maple syrup can play many roles.

There is dessert of course:

  • Buttermilk Maple Spice Cake, a substitute for gingerbread
  • Maple Spice Cookies, as good as a cookie gets
  • Maple Fudge, for a fall candy treat

But you can start your entire meal with these appetizers:

  • Maple Cream Cheese Spread, for a sweet, cheesy appetizer
  • Maple Cream Biscuits, to enjoy with that spread

Side dishes can include:

  • Maple Bacon Strata with Cheddar Cheese and Pistachio Nuts, rich enough for a main dish actually
  • Sweet Potato and Bacon Bisque, a natural marriage mediated by maple
  • Maple Baked Beans, for satisfyingly intensified beans
  • Maple Balsamic Dressing for your salad

And even the main course can display maple power:

  • Crispy Maple Spareribs, a rival for any Chinese ribs you’ve tried
  • Maple Vinegar Roasted Pork, where sweet and sour meet

Surprisingly, most of these recipes are neither “maply-ee” or outrageously sweet. Maple syrup, when used with discretion, adds undertones and equally importantly that smooth texture rendering this syrup so very satisfying to the palate. Yes, there’s a touch of sweetness but it’s just like using salt: you are adding something to intensify the inherent flavor, to draw upon the natural flavor of, say, those ribs.

The Maple Syrup Cookbook is still available. It was reprinted in 2001 and copies are out there on Amazon. It’s a sweet book. From many perspectives.