When you think of local food in Northern Virginia, maple syrup isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Wine, beef, pork, a myriad of vegetables, and apples all fit in with the general notion of the things you’ll find here. If you are surprised to learn that there is a maple syrup producer in Loudoun County, then join the club because I was very happily surprised when I found out. Word spread through a locavores group in Loudoun and I jumped right email to contact the owner, Daniel LePre of Vale of the Blue Ridge Maple Farm (no website yet). Though the operation has only been at work in Loudoun for a couple years, Daniel grew up in New England and has been making maple syrup since childhood. On a trip to pick up some syrup, I had the chance to meet his delightful wife and talk about their maple syrup business, which is growing. Right now they process in a facility on their property, but they are planning to expand in the next few years and increase production.
I brought home jugs of the Grade A Medium Amber and Grade B, which is a dark amber, and I have to say this is fantastic maple syrup. I generally prefer medium amber for table syrup rather than the light syrup commonly found in stores. The flavor is more pronounced and works for a topping syrup as well as cooking. I save Grade B syrup for baked goods.
One thing I’ve always found odd is how maple syrup is associated with autumn baking, when actually most trees are tapped in late winter to early spring, February to April. Tapping in the autumn is not as common. During my visit to the farm, I learned that the trees need freezing temperatures to maintain sap production before the trees start to bud, so an overly warm winter or early spring can affect sap production.
The syrup we got from the farm was fantastic in a maple and mustard sauce that I served with grilled pork chops, based on a recipe from Cooking Light Way to Cook Grilling, and it worked very well. My family all really enjoyed the sauce and found out they actually do like pork chops, especially after I told Monkey Boy it was chicken so he would try it. It’s an easy recipe we’ll make again.
I doubled the marinade/sauce recipe because my guys like plenty of sauce, and it was good for leftovers, too. I like to cook these on a grill pan because I’ve found they don’t dry out as quickly as they can on a gas or charcoal grill. For our family with young children, 8 boneless pork chops makes 8 servings, but that can vary from one family to another.
MAPLE MUSTARD GRILLED PORK CHOPS
Adapted from Cooking Light Way to Cook Grilling.
gallon zip-top bag
grill or grill pan
2/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 boneless pork chops, about 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the brown mustard, brown sugar, maple syrup, yellow mustard, minced onion, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, pepper, and garlic. Pour half of the marinade in a gallon zip-top plastic bag, and reserve the remaining marinade. Add the pork chops to bag and mash them around to fully coat with the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
3. Remove the pork chops from the bag and sprinkle with salt. Place the pork chops on the hot grill rack coated with cooking spray. Sear each side for 1 minute with the grill lid closed, then reduce the heat to medium and cook the chops about 3 minutes on each side. (For the grill pan, I cooked each chop for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side without the initial sear.) Set the cooked chops on a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve with the reserved mustard marinade.
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[Disclosure: I am a member of the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.]