So What Did you Eat with Maple Syrup? Pickles?

Shane Wm. Edwards sent me this and I was kind of baffled.


The classic combo of donuts, pickles, and boiled syrup make up this #RootedinVermont sugar-on-snow banquet, featured in the Time Life New England cookbook in 1970. The acidity of the pickles helps cut the sweetness of the maple and donuts.

A chapter on maple syrup-makers in Vermont documents “sugaring-off” parties, a day in the maple syrup season in rural Vermont when sugar-makers invite all comers to their “sugarhouse” to the taste the freshly-boiled maple syrup/sugar, turned into candy in the snow. Essential to this Vermont experience were fresh brown doughnuts and sour dill pickles. Roaldus Richmond, the author of this chapter writes:

The hot sugar is ladled onto the snow in fantastic patterns, quickly hardening into brittle amber pools against the white. The sugar is taken up with forks, wound around the tines, and lifted to the mouth. The taste is indescribable. It is rich and smooth and pleasing, delicate and pure. It is not sickish-sweet, yet sweet enough to require the sour bitterness of pickles to re-sharpen the appetite from time to time…Crisp plain doughnuts help temper the sweetness and strong hot coffee tops off the feast.

Maple syrup, doughnuts and coffee sound explicable and obvious; pickles and maple syrup is a historical flavour combination that I’d never considered. So I got out a dill pickle and dipped it in maple syrup (pictured below). They’re the only two American foods in my pantry, so I should have known that they could work together.

There are no two flavours that do a better job of cancelling each other out. With a little experimentation into the correct concentration of pickle to syrup, you could construct a pickle dish that tastes like nothing at all but full of good pickle texture; a textural amalgam of yielding and crunchiness. You wouldn’t achieve much at all from this. While palate-cleansing is a worthy pursuit, there is no glory in tasteless food.

Maple syrup production in Vermont is in decline. Winters are getting warmer and so maple syrup production is creeping north into Canada. Kurlansky writes that where “in the first half of the twentieth century 80 percent of maple syrup production was from the United States, today 75 percent is Canadian”. As it slips north, maybe pickles and syrup will no longer exist together.”

Yeah, the pickles are less common nowadays, from what I’ve seen, but they’re used for the contrast effect, and to cleanse the pallet. You taste so much sweetness, then you need to “reset” your taste buds in order for the next round to still taste as good as the first.
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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