Once upon a time there was a FarmBoy, as I have affectionately called my husband since we first met,who loves to tap maple trees for their sap. As a consequence on perfectly good winter days that demand that one cuddle up with one's loved ones on the couch in front of a steaming kettle bedecked coalstove, he could be found going out into the cold white north, bundled up. The cats and puppy kept me warm on the couch, with intermittent visits from various children. I blogged here about his maple syrup adventures and took a few pictures, on a warmish day in the winter.
My sweetheart makes awesome tasting maple syrup. He cooks it over a Franklin cast iron wood burning stove, in the back yard. This year, with a new to him stove, he accidentally let too much smoke get to one batch of the sap boiling atop the stove. As it concentrated down, it became hickory-smoked syrup. This is not pancake friendly, to my tastebuds. But after patiently stoking fires for hours while out in the cold, the end product of that labor of love becomes dear to us. After tasting it and realizing we couldn't eat it on waffles, we filtered it and bottled it with "smokey maple syrup" on the lid as a caution.
I finally found the perfect use for it. If you don't have the same mishap in your backyard, you could recreate our serendipitous adventure with 1/2 tsp. of liquid smoke flavor to 1 cup of maple syrup (or pancake syrup if you don't have access to real maple syrup).
FarmBoy's Folly - Hickory Scented Bean and Green Soup
1 pound dried white beans, such as white kidney (cannellini) or great Northern, rinsed and picked over
1/2 pound ham, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups cleaned and chopped collards or other greens (try chopped swiss chard, spinach, etc.)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup of pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Steak Seasoning (a mix of coarse pepper, salt, and assorted aromatic herbs)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese or parmesan
Put the beans into a large pot or bowl. Bring the beans and water to a boil over high heat and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to stand for 1 hour. Drain. This reduces the flatulence effect of the beans.
Fry the ham in a heavy medium stockpot over medium-high heat to render some fat, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the ham, and set aside. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the collards, and the chicken stock, the soy sauce, and liquid smoke, then add the presoaked beans, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove half the beans, mash or puree with a hand blender, and return to the pot. Add the maple syrup at this point to the thickened bean soup. Taste for salt, and add molasses or brown sugar a tablespoon at a time, if you desire more sweetening.
Stir in the cooked ham dices, and heat through. Ladle into a warm bowl and sprinkle with the grated Romano or parmesan cheese. This can be served with Boston Brown Bread, or corn muffins, or your favorite cornbread to help sop up some of the pot liquor. If you're vegetarian, you can make this recipe without the ham, using ham flavored TVP or adding hickory smoked tofu at the end and warming it through. Substitute vegetable broth or stock for the chicken broth and you're good to go!
This was the perfect dinner for a cold, wet Spring day. It followed the best Spring Break Ever, if you ask my children, and made for one traumatic let down, weatherwise. Back to school, back to sitting still in class, and back to rain, mud, and dripping jackets. It demanded a warm, filling, heart dinner. The children will tell you that it's the perfect day to have some honey and butter on your corn muffins too, to must make everything feel better.
The morale of this story is, the next time you find you've had a little folly, remember FarmBoy and that old saying your grandmother repeated: "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade". She was right, it's very delicious, and we did it ourselves! I may have to use some of that hickory smoked maple syrup as a glaze on some baked salmon fillets too.