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It’s time again for my (once again, very late) monthly post for “Around the World in 12 Dishes,” the series in which each month participating bloggers travel the world with their kids by cooking a dish from another country and perhaps reading a book, doing a craft, or learning fun facts about it.
I was so excited to see Canada on our schedule. Not only is Monkey’s perennial favorite Caillou from Canada but so is maple syrup, a recent fascination of his thanks to another virtual friend – Curious George! Yes, I like to think my husband and I are major influences on Monkey, but the truth is that all he really seems to absorb is what comes from a favorite character (or his preschool teacher).
Ever since Curious George visited a sugar shack (where the sap from a maple tree is turned into syrup), my Monkey has been very curious as well to try maple syrup! (Btw if you don’t want to invest in a big bottle of maple syrup, our local Target sells small 100 mL bottles that are perfect for quenching your child’s curiosity without breaking your bank).
To get us in the mood, we found some great books about maple syrup. The first, Maple Moon, is a really beautiful book based on common native legends about the origins of maple syrup. In this story, a young boy who often feels left out because of a handicap ends up saving his village from a difficult winter when he discovers the golden syrup.
A much lighter book is Pancakes for Supper. It is all about a quick-thinking pioneer girl’s adventures in the woods amongst the wild animals when she is accidentally bounced out of her parents’ wagon. I was worried it would be a bit too S-C-A-R-Y for Monkey, but he had fun seeing her convince the animals to put on her brightly colored winter clothes (in exchange for not eating her!) What does this all have to do with maple syrup? Well, not too much, except that in the end her parents are so happy to see her again that they all eat pancakes (with syrup!) for supper.
When the time came to choose a recipe with maple syrup, my problem was narrowing down all the options! Since we were busy getting ready for a family trip, I decided to go with something easy, this delicious maple syrup fudge, a traditional treat from Quebec. (Many thanks to Valerie of Glittering Muffins for sharing the link!)
But before we got started, Monkey and I first did a taste test. I lined up bottles of honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup then had him close his eyes (quite a task for a curious 4 year old!)
As it turned out, to the untrained little tongue it can be difficult to tell the difference among these! In particular he kept mixing up the agave nectar and the maple syrup, perhaps because of the similar consistency and because he is less familiar with them than he is with honey. But the funniest part was when he gave his opinions about how they could be improved: “Needs more salt!” “Add a little milk.” (I think he thought he was Anatole the mouse, leaving notes on wedges of cheese!)
Once we determined that he loved all of them, it was time to make our maple syrup fudge. I have to confess here that this was made while packing for vacation, while trying to keep my toddler from dismantling the kitchen, so it didn’t quite turn out as beautifully as in the original. But let me tell you, the taste was still wonderful! I mean, let’s be honest: any recipe whose principal ingredients are maple syrup, butter, and cream just can’t turn out wrong. (I apologize for the quality of the picture – as I said, we were packing for vacation!)
The original recipe is in French, so I am including below an English version (courtesy of Google Translate) with my notes about substitutions. Enjoy!
Maple Syrup Fudge (Quebec)
500 ml (2 cups) maple syrup
45 ml (3 tbsp.) Unsalted butter
250 ml (1 cup) 35% cream (For the cream you can also substitute 3/4 c of milk and 1/3 c butter – a bit more butter if you are using low fat milk)
5 ml (1 tsp) Vanilla
- Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. (I just greased a loaf pan).
- In a saucepan, pour maple syrup and butter. (If you are substituting milk and butter for the cream, add that butter at this time)
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for five minutes.
- Stir in cream (or milk) and cook until the temperature reaches 118 º C (245 º F) on a candy thermometer.
- Let stand five to eight minutes.
- Stir the mixture with an electric mixer ten minutes at high speed. (I skipped this step because my littlest was tired and ready for bed, but it really does make a different in blending the ingredients together to make creamy fudge).
- Pour into mold and refrigerate before cutting.
What have you been cooking with your children lately?
Check out the other participating blogs to see what they have been cooking up:
Adventures In Mommydom, Afterschool for Smarty Pants, All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, Maroc Mama, Creative World of Varya, Glittering Muffins, Kid World Citizen, Mermaids’ Makings, The Educators’ Spin On It and The Mommy Talks.
If you try a dish from Canada, we’d love to hear about it! And don’t forget to download this month’s placemat and passport! You can also link up your dish or craft here to share your post on all the participating blogs: