Maple syrup

Julia Schwierking helps Sheryl Pedrick, the education director at Ladew Gardens, pour the liquid they collected from a maple tree that will be used to make maple syrup. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun photo / January 30, 2013)

Cooking with maple syrup

Maple syrup is a favorite ingredient in desserts and in any recipe involving sweet potatoes. But it is also a delightful addition to glazes for salmon or poultry or mixed with barbeque sauce for pork. Try it in chocolate chip cookies or in baking powder biscuits.

And it doesn't just come in a bottle. Tonewood Maple in Vermont sells a solid maple sugar cube, to be shaved by a microplane over ice cream, fruit or cocktails. And in flakes, to be mixed into yogurt or a noodle salad. The company also cooks the sap down to a thick buttery curd for toast.

Chef Clayton Miller, executive chef at Wit and Wisdom, offers these tips for cooking with maple syrup.

•It's important to consider the flavor profile you're going for and focus on the quality of the maple syrup. Maple syrup can change over the year, depending on the time it was harvested. You have to keep in mind that you may have bought your maple syrup from the same purveyor but the bottle you got in June may be entirely different from the one you got in January.

•There are really low-end, watery maple syrups on the market, and then there are very expensive, superb-quality thick syrups. Bliss is a purveyor that's become really popular for its aging of maple syrup in cask barrels.

•When using maple syrup in cooking you really have to consider its sugar content. A higher sugar content can alter a dish's flavors when cooked at high temperatures. Depending on how I am using the syrup, I might cut it with water, wine or vinegar. I also might add in various spices like vanilla, star anise and of course salt to lend to the savory element.

•The best way to use maple syrup is when you can cook using a low temperature where it imparts the flavor. Ingredients that are more fibrous like pork brisket or pork belly are perfect because they can be cooked low and slow, opening up and absorbing the flavors.

Maple-poached and oak-fired pork chop

For the maple poaching liquid:

2 cups maple syrup

1 cup medium dry sherry

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup water

4-inch piece of fresh ginger (cut in half)

2 chipotle peppers

1 vanilla bean

2 bay leaves