When the human race is in its twilight, we'll have to answer for the things that we've done. We'll have to account for more than a few sins. But in our defense, we can say, we learned how to make maple syrup. And that counts for more than we may think.
Maple syrup is one of those products of the human endeavor that make me glad we've ascended to where we have on the food chain. It embodies our communion with nature, because we have two parties to thank. The maple trees, of course, which tirelessly share sticky sap in forest cathedrals. And the flannel-clad men and women who fire great furnaces of transformation, who alchemize that sap into amber syrup.
This ice cream is in honor to maple and all that it gives us. I pair it with rosemary, something cold and savory to bring out the full depth of maple's warmth and sweetness. A scoop hits you in stages: it begins with an alpine flush, homage to the evergreen forests where this story begins. It then gives way to notes of maple, dragging you down to burnished depths, lower and lower and lower. This all ends with a maple finish that refuses to let you go. After a scoop, the very air tastes arboreal, not unlike a slow breath after a sip of Scotch.
The experience is almost too much on its own. It should be cut with something warm, spiced, and fruity: like pears, poached, caramelized, or cobblered. Toasted pecans should make an appearance as well to sing duet with maple's lingering flavors.
Reverence for ingredients may sound precious. But who hasn't whispered a prayer of thanks to that perfect tomato, peach, or steak? Maple is our autumnal hero, bringing out the best of nature and the best of ourselves. We owe it that much.
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About the author: Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries. You can follow his exotic spice- and ice cream-based ramblings on Twitter.