The Great DIY Imitation Maple Syrup Experiment, Part I

Posted by 78a7e62a tiny Jonathan Soma on jul 14, 2011 under Experiment

If you're just a sucker for pictures you can roll right into the slideshow.

Remember that time Michael Ruhlman did the BLT From Scratch Challenge? While the winners ran off with limitless internet foodie fame, the rest of us made off with tips and tricks for making bacon in our own kitchen with some combination of pork belly, sodium nitrite and ingenuity.

Bacon recipes and breakfasts in general are always asking you for maple syrup this, maple syrup that, but if you were somehow unaware let me tell you a secret: maple syrup is damn expensive. On the other hand, stooping to buy the imitation stuff makes you spend the weekend self-loathing and wondering where your foodie cred went. I offer a compromise:

Let's make our own imitation maple syrup. DIY factory food. Top-notch ingredients for your personal artificial product.

There are a lot of recipes out there for artificial maple syrup, but they all use maple syrup extract, which is just plain cheating. We might as well go tap a nearby Brooklyn tree and call it a day if we want real maple. Instead, we're going to turn to Science.

Remember back when there were mysterious waves of maple syrup odors floating over NYC? When they eventually figured it out, it was a New Jersey fragrance plant processing fenugreek seeds. Fenugreek seeds have high amounts of an aroma compound called sotolon which, naturally, smells just like maple syrup. Through some sort of technical wizardry they use it to flavor imitation maple syrup. Let's take our meagre technical know-how and see if we can wrangle up a do-it-yourself version.

FUN FACT: Fenugreek can increase the milk supply of lactating women, so it isn't uncommon to find breastfeeding women popping them down. A great side effect is that their skin starts to smell like maple syrup. I promise you this is a totally true.

So anyway, here's where our experiment comes in. 


4 tablespoons fenugreek, divided
1 cup vodka
1 cup water
4 tiny mason jars

Aroma chemicals are generally soluble in alcohols and fats, and sometimes if you're super lucky water (FACT: liquid smoke is just smoke and water). We're going to divide up the fenugreek between water and vodka and see how well they both do at absorbing the flavor. Ordinarily we'd just go with vodka, but seeing as how maple syrup isn't exactly an alcoholic thing we thought we'd give water a shot.

We're also going to try toasting the fenugreek to see if it does anything to the aroma that it releases. It works when you're cooking with it, so why not with this?

Directions (see the slideshow)

Divide the fenugreek into 2 equal parts. Toast one for 3-4 minute, until a bit darker in color.

Grind your fenugreek a bit. It's super hard and weirdly stonelike, so you don't have to do too good of a job.

Divide the fenugreek and liquids between the jars (H2O+untoasted, H2O+toasted, vodka+untoasted, vodka+toasted) and start counting the days!

This is going to take a while, but don't quote me on how long. Generally spices only take 2 or 3 days to give up the goods to alcohol but we might as well wait for Monday to roll around to see how it works out. Watch out bacon-infused Old Fashioned, if this works out we're going straight for breakfast shots.

DIY Imitation Maple Syrup Recipe Walkthrough Slideshow

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See the full slideshow →

Tagged with science spices fenugreek scent

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