The collected sap (which at this point tastes like sugared water) must be boiled to remove water, thereby concentrating the sugars into maple syrup. There is nothing better than homemade maple syrup!
And March also means fresh rhubarb makes an appearance in the market. And it has finally arrived in mine. At least the hothouse form, which is always a much brighter red than garden grown; it's still a bit early for garden rhubarb.
To me this always means two things: spring can't be all that far behind and you're going to see a lot of rhubarb recipes coming at you 'cause I really love it. Mother used to grow it in her garden and she would stew it some days and other days she'd make her rhubarb pie. You don't very often see a recipe for rhubarb pie without some other fruit in it (usually strawberries), or tapioca for thickening. Ruins. The. Pie. Mother just used flour. It's not as thick as most pies, but it's the stuff dreams are made of.
However, I'm not going to post the pie recipe today. Right now I'm going to tell you about my maple syrup rhubarb muffins. Rhubarb is a difficult muffin to make just right. But I've got the perfect recipe. Be sure to use paper liners 'cause this muffin will stick to the pan if you don't. The flavors in this muffin combine to make one perfect gem of a treat. Spring will burst in your mouth!
Rhubarb Maple Muffins
Adapted from Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase
1-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Mix the rhubarb and the brown sugar in a bowl and allow to stand for 45 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350°. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg and set aside. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and egg together until blended. Add the maple syrup. Alternate the flour mixture with the milk and mix until you have a smooth batter.
By hand, fold in the rhubarb mixture, the lemon zest and the pecans. Fill your muffin cups nearly to the top with batter. ( I used up nearly all the batter) Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are brown and a cake tester comes out clean.