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, and I encourage you to experiment with what you have on hand. In the 1990s, 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 feel like I have it dialed into something my family I enjoy immensely.
Over the past few years, there's been an explosion of new food crafters popping up in our state of Vermont. So, lately, I've tried to substitute their products in for the traditional "grocery store" options you'll typically find on the shelf. One of the biggest changes is substituting over-the-counter balsamic vinegar for wild crabapple vinegar. It's a bit of a change from standard balsamic, but a nice changeup to your salad rotation. Also, as I mentioned, I've included fresh herbs to elevate the flavor profile. However, dried herbs from your cabinet will get the job done as well. Speaking of flavor profile, I like to use a dollop of Dijon mustard to enhance the body and improve the savory-to-sweet ratio after the addition of maple syrup. Depending on your taste buds and how creamy you like your dressing, feel free to add more to taste.
Finally, I can't say it enough, if you don’t have some Dark Robust Taste maple syrup on hand you are missing out on the most versatile cooking sweetener on the market. Time and time again, we fill orders that include multiple jugs of table syrup and a jug of darker syrup for cooking. Don’t fret about what you're going to do with an extra jug of syrup, we've answered every possible question about storage in a recent blog on the subject here.
Dark Maple Syrup
As I mentioned briefly above, some cooking functions require dark maple syrup. Maple syrup is graded by color and flavor, and the grade that I recommend for this quick vinaigrette recipe is Dark Robust Taste/Table Syrup. This syrup flavor can hold its own among the other ingredients and meld nicely with 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 work 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, vinegar and Dijon mustard, depending on the brand you use generally have a lot of sodium, which varies 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 intervention. 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 for 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 as intended. If you go too fast, there is no going back to fix it, so be diligent at this stage.
Maple Balsamic Dressing
½ cup crabapple or balsamic vinegar
½ cup Dark Robust Taste maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
- Mix vinegar, syrup, rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic, and mustard.
- With a whisk, emulsify the olive oil into the other ingredients.
- Salt to taste.
- Store in refrigerator.