When I first moved from New Jersey to New Hampshire in 1980, I’m embarrassed to admit how little I knew about real maple syrup.
I didn’t know that it took 40 gallons of sap, boiled down, to make a gallon of syrup. Or that Native Americans were tapping trees and making syrup well before colonists arrived.
I was unaware that freezing nights followed by warming days was nature’s way of coaxing the sap from deep within the maple tree, a brief annual cycle that limits the production of syrup, by dedicated sugarmakers, to a busy few weeks in the late winter and early spring.
What I lacked in expertise, however, I made up for in ardor after my arrival in New England: pure maple syrup quickly became my go-to sweetener for everything from sticky buns, to bread pudding, and homemade applesauce.
I learned to use it, judiciously, in winter squash and curried pumpkin soups. And I discovered a Yankee trick for making slow cooker sweet-and-sour meatballs with maple and chili sauce.
Brussels sprouts favored a light hand with the maple and a garnish of bacon. And glorious things happened to ham sandwiches and roasted meats slathered with maple- flavored Dijon mustard seasoned with basil.
All that, I discovered, and a whole lot more.
Enough, in fact, to fill an entire book with more than one hundred of my favorite maple syrup recipes. I self-published Maple Syrup Cookbook in the 1980’s, eventually turning to a publisher whose books I admired, Storey Books, to secure a more certain future for my work. Thanks to them, and several gorgeous makeovers over the years, the book continues to sell nicely more than thirty years after it was first released.
Which brings us to the subject at hand: Maple Custard Pie.
There are few things in life more comforting than a good rich custard, especially one baked in a crust. Cool and sweet, soft and creamy, custard is like velvet on the tongue. The fact that it’s so rich, an indulgence many of us allow ourselves only a few times a year, makes it all the more special.
This pie is a testament to the way real maple can elevate a simple dish to the sublime. It dates back to those New Hampshire days, when I could afford to eat custard and custard pie with impunity. The calories didn’t stick back then; a regular regimen of chopping wood, shoveling snow, and herding four kids saw to that.
But nowadays, calories are like the houseguest who lingers long after they’ve worn out their welcome. Sigh…
Don’t let that dissuade you: this is a pie you must try. Think of it as a way of supporting the tree-to-table movement and American made products. (We’ll overlook the fact, for the moment, that Canada produces far more maple than we do.)
Tell yourself anything, but just be sure to give this one a try. You’ll be glad you did.
Buck-a-Book (shipping) is Back
To celebrate maple syrup season, we’re bringing back our Buck-a-Book special. Here’s how it works. Browse the selection of books in our online store, decide which ones you’d like, then send us an email and let us know. Don’t order them directly from the store; send us that email instead. Include your shipping address in your email.
We’ll then email you a PayPal invoice for the books, plus a dollar shipping for each one. It’s that easy.
Your books will be sent to you by media mail, which typically takes just a couple of days longer than regular mail. If you want your books signed for someone in particular, let us know.
This offer expires Sunday, March 19th, and it’s only good for books shipped in the lower 48 states. Take advantage of this offer while you can, and thanks for your support.
PASTRY NOTES: Use any of your favorite pie dough recipes for this pie. Please click on the Table of Contents tab above to find links to all the pie dough recipes at The Pie Academy.