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Maple-Spiced Nuts and Fruits

This recipe is adapted from The Art of American Indian Cooking by Yeffe Kimball and Jean Anderson (Lyons Press 1965). To add some spice to a dreary March day, I came up with the optional flavorings for this recipe. I used them all, and while my picky 5-year-old thought the nuts and fruits were "too spicy," everyone else liked them well enough that they were gone within a couple of days.

Makes 2 cups

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

Squeeze of lemon (optional)

Squeeze of orange and orange rind (optional)

Few shakes of five-spice powder (optional)

1 1/2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts) and dried fruits (apricots, prunes, cranberries)

Place maple syrup, water, vanilla, salt, spices and juices/rind in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the softball stage, 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. This should take 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, and drop handfuls of nuts into the hot syrup, turning gently with a spoon until evenly coated. With a slotted spoon, remove to a pan and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat until all the nuts are done. Do the same with the fruits, using tongs for bigger fruits such as apricots, and the same slotted spoon for small fruits such as dried cranberries. If the syrup begins to harden, heat just long enough to melt it.

Cool the nuts and fruits to room temperature.

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