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Our spring ritual

Maple is a favorite and versatile as a sweetener for sweet and savory dishes and baked goods, and as a condiment, running down the sides of a hot stack of pancakes

Dorothy Grover-Read ’s culinary talents can be found on her blog “The New Vintage Kitchen” (, billed as “[a] Vermont innkeeper’s collection of classics reimagined for today’s kitchen.” Her column has regularly appeared in The Commons’ Food & Drink section, mostly on hiatus during the pandemic.

BELLOWS FALLS—The sap is running!

Our first crop of the year in New England — maple! — is also our first real evidence of spring in this cold climate.

When I hear that the sap is running, I’m happy indeed. Warm days above freezing and cold nights below mean the sap run is upon us, and it can’t come a moment too soon.

Maple syrup was first developed by the indigenous peoples of Canada and our Northeast. It certainly is an important component in the terroir of our part of the world, and with good reason — its unique and delicious flavor.

Our spring ritual of sugar on snow is to be envied! Such a simple thing: boiling hot syrup drizzled over snow and served with a sour pickle on the side to cut the sweet. It might sound strange to some, especially since it is usually enjoyed in full winter gear outside! But we love it.

Maple is a favorite and versatile as a sweetener for sweet and savory dishes and baked goods, and as a condiment, running down the sides of a hot stack of pancakes.

Mix it with a bit of miso and glaze some salmon, make a dressing with some olive oil and grainy mustard, use it as the sweetener in a crème brûlée, or simply replace sugar in breads, muffins, cakes, and other treats.

Breakfast in New England is often accented with maple drizzled over pancakes or waffles, but a maple-baked egg cup — a perfectly baked egg sitting in a maple-and-butter-drenched bread cup — is a slightly-more-subtle way to enjoy the flavor in a savory application. They make a lovely brunch offering or special Sunday breakfast.

Maple Boiled Dumplings

Turning to my roots, I think of maple boiled dumplings — fluffy little dumpling pillows simmered in diluted maple syrup. They make a lovely side dish or even a dessert.

This old family recipe comes from my grandmother, Delora Martel LaFlamme, who was a French-Canadian immigrant. It is a traditional recipe from her birth area, Île d’Orléans, an island on the Saint Lawrence River, just a few miles east of Québec City.

When I was a kid, I thought it strange to cook something in maple syrup. But this recipe’s simple ingredients combine for a special dish, especially if you like the flavor and aroma of maple.

These dumplings are a celebration of maple, lots of maple, but they are not as sweet as one might imagine. My mother served them with pork, but they could just as easily be a dessert.

They are light and pretty to look at as well. Use a dark amber grade of syrup for the most robust maple flavor.

The dumplings are delicious in this dish, and I also use this same recipe whenever I want any dumpling that simmers in a soup. It’s always a delicious family pleaser.

Sift together:

¶2 cups flour

¶1 Tbsp. baking powder

¶Scant tsp. salt

Mix together well, then work in:

¶{1/2} stick of cold butter, cubed

Once the dough has the consistency of lumpy meal, add:

¶{2/3} cup cold milk

Mix just until it comes together, it will be stiff.

In a 12-inch skillet, combine:

¶1{1/2} cups maple syrup

¶1{1/2} cups water

Bring to a boil.

Using an ice-cream scoop or large tablespoon, drop the dumplings into the syrup. Don’t crowd them; they will swell in the cooking process.

Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and don’t remove the lid for a full 20 minutes. No cheating! (I don’t know what happens if you do, but my mother gave this instruction sternly.)

When they are done, place them in a serving dish and top with a little of the cooking syrup. Over the top, grate:

¶Zest of 1 lemon

This is my twist, and I think it balances the sweet. Makes 24 dumplings.

Maple Baked Egg Cups

This recipe is a little sweet, a lot savory, and very satisfying! Different variations of these lovely little treats have been around for a while.

I like my addition of a local, nutty Swiss cheese and the chives best, but you can also use a Cheddar and any herbs you like. Use any locally sourced breakfast meat you can find, or make it vegetarian with soy sausage or even some lovely sauteed mushrooms.

Use the best free-range eggs available — the taste really is better. (Do avoid jumbo eggs, however, or you might have trouble fitting everything in the cups!)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Use vegetable spray to coat every other cup in a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a skillet over medium-high, cook until crisp:

¶2 breakfast sausages, or vegan sausages

Drain them on a paper towel, crumble, and set aside.

Remove the crust from:

¶6 slices soft whole-grain bread

Flatten the slices with a heavy rolling pin. You will want them quite thin.


¶{1/4} cup melted unsalted butter

¶{1/4} cup dark amber Vermont maple syrup

Spread this mixture liberally on both sides of the bread.

Place the prepared bread slices into the sprayed muffin tins, folding them in nicely, forming a little vessel. Distribute the sausage evenly on the bottom of each. Divide and scatter over the sausage:

¶3 ounces Swiss cheese

Into the lined cups crack:

¶6 medium eggs

If your eggs are large, pour off a bit of the white before putting them in the cup.

Sprinkle the tops of each with:

¶A pinch of minced chives

¶A little more grated Swiss

Bake for 15 minutes and check. They will probably need a little longer for the whites to set, but don’t let the yolks go too far. If you like your yolks very runny, this is probably all the time you need, but if you like a more pudding-like texture, it might take a full five more minutes in the oven.

Top them with a few more herbs.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #602 (Wednesday, March 3, 2021). This story appeared on page B3.

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