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Cooking with maple syrup gaining popularity

The magic elixir is for more than just pancakes.

CHARDON, Ohio — You'll see sap buckets on trees and the steam rising from sugarbushes all over Northeast Ohio. Evaporators are evaporating, producing something magical.

It's maple syrup, and it's one of Lori Adler's favorites.

"It's not a sugary sweet. It's a unique flavor that's just wonderful."

She's three years into being a hobbyist syrup producer with limited success, but she hopes that will change this year.

Here at Richard's Maple Products in Chardon, they've got gallons of the stuff in every grade, perfect for drowning a stack of pancakes. Delicious yes, but syrup can be so much more.

To find out just how versatile syrup can be, I went back to school, the ICASI Cooking Institute in Chesterland, to be exact. Chef-Instructor Tim McCoy gave me a crash course in syrup.

"I think chefs are starting to recapture the usage of maple syrup," he said. "It fits into our modern cooking in a lot of different ways.

"That mildly sweet flavor, you can use for a lot of things. I mentioned with a salad dressing, it pairs well with sour. I mention the pork because theirs a rub on the pork that's a little spicy so sweet and heat go well together too. Sweet also goes well with salty."

Lori cooks with syrup too and has a great tip: "I put it in chili. When you put it in with the heat in the chili, it kind of brings it down a little bit."

Unique flavor that adds a mild sweetness to just about any dish. I guess the secret's out: The natural sweetener Native Americans shared with our ancestors is making a delicious comeback.