This recipe is the final version of a maple balsamic dressing I've been perfecting over the last several decades. It takes on different flavors depending on what herbs are in season. In the 1990's, my original version of this recipe was simply equal parts of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Over the years, through a bit of experimentation here and there, I've included fresh herbs to elevate the flavor profile. A dollop of Dijon mustard adds to the body and improves the ratio of savory to the sweet of maple syrup. Depending on your taste buds and how creamy you like your dressing, feel free to add more to taste.
I can't say it enough, if you don’t have some Very Dark Strong Taste/Baking maple syrup on hand you are missing out on the most versatile cooking sweetener. Time and time again, we fill orders that include multiple jugs of table syrup and a jug of darker syrup for cooking. Don’t worry about storing this extra bottle in the pantry until you're ready to use it, we've answered every possible question about storage in a recent blog on the subject here.
Dark Maple Syrup
As I mentioned briefly above, there are some cooking functions that require dark maple syrup. Maple syrup is graded by color and flavor, and the grade that I recommend for this quick vinaigrette recipe is Very Dark Strong Taste/Baking. This syrup flavor is able to hold its own among the other ingredients, and meld nicely with the herbs and vinegar.
Convert Fresh Herbs to Dry
Now that fresh herbs are available in most grocery stores year-round, there is no reason to not use them when you have the opportunity. If not, dried herbs works in a pinch. Since dried herbs have less water than fresh, use this nifty herb chart at the bottom of the linked Reluctant Gourmet blog about converting fresh and dried herbs.
One thing to note before we begin, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard, depending on the brand you use, generally has a lot of sodium that changes from brand to brand. For this recipe it is prudent to taste at the end and then salt, if needed.
Salad Dressing Emulsifier
Nobody likes it when you serve a beautiful salad and the homemade dressing separates in the serving pitcher right before you go to pour it. Emulsifying will help to hold the dressing together for several days. Oil and vinegar have different molecular bonds, so they naturally separate without a little help. What you need to overcome this is an emulsifier like maple syrup, mustard and garlic. Not only do they help the structure, but they taste really good, and provide a creaminess to the dressing.
Knowing how to emulsify the olive oil will help your dressing stay together and stall the separation of the olive oil and the other ingredients.
The important thing to remember is to pour the olive oil in slowly while stirring. To do this, there are many kitchen tools suitable to emulsifying the oil into the dressing. For example, with small batches, or when I don't want to make a mess, I just stick with a kitchen whisk. Otherwise, a blender is perfect for those larger jobs. Somehow, I have collected several different sized Ninja blenders, and they are the best for throwing together a sauce, marinade, or dressing. Remember, drizzle in the oil slowly while mixing, and it will mix well as intended. If you go to fast, there is no going back to fix it, so tread deliberately at this stage.
Maple Balsamic Dressing
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup Very Dark Strong Taste/ Baking maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
- Mix together vinegar, maple syrup, rosemary, thyme, pepper and mustard.
- With a whisk, emulsify the olive oil into the other ingredients.
- Salt to taste.
- Store in refrigerator.