In early spring, when the days start to warm but the nights are still crisp, maple syrup season begins.
In a good season, the water clear sap will run for 6 weeks. Sugar bush owners work non-stop to create a year’s worth of product in a limited time. The process is intense: for each liter of syrup produced, 40 liters of sap must be boiled down in wood-stoked evaporators.
The lighter varieties of syrup are usually more expensive, but the medium grades are more flavorful for cooking and baking. The dark variety is usually used only as an ingredient in commercial production.
Each year, a visit to the local sugar bush and the purchase of 8 liters of syrup is a sign for my family that spring has come. We’re certain each year that we will make it last until the next season, but somehow, come New Years’s, we are eyeing what is left in our last jug, and trying to ration it until the sap starts to run again.
We make sure to save some for these Cranberry Maple Butter Tarts.
The smoky sweetness of maple syrup complements the cranberries, and the berries keep this tart from being too over-the-top sugary. Double the recipe and keep some in the freezer for eating later (they don’t even have to be thawed first!).
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml butter softened
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml brown sugar
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml maple syrup
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml vanilla
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons / 7.5 ml all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml orange juice
- 15 3-inch / 7.5ml tart shells
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F / 204 degrees C.
In small bowl, mix cranberries and orange juice. Heat in microwave for 30-45 seconds, then let sit while you prepare filling. Cranberries should absorb the orange juice.
Cream butter, and beat in brown sugar. Add maple syrup and blend thoroughly. Beat in egg, vanilla, cider and salt. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir in thoroughly.
Place tart shells on baking tray. Divide softened cranberries among the shells. Spoon filling over cranberries and fill tart shells. You will need to stir the filling mixture occasionally as it separates a little bit.
Place filled shells in oven. After five minutes at 400 degrees, reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
Pastry should be golden and tarts will have set lightly. The filling will puff up somewhat during baking, but will fall as the tarts cool.
Allow tarts to cool before serving.
Image adapted from photo by Glen.wilkinson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsPhoto – may be used according to same licence
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