Maple syrup is one of nature’s most precious gifts. It starts life as sap flowing through maple trees, waiting for the right conditions to be coaxed into buckets and boiled down to a concentrated cup of super sweet syrup. Just a few years ago, the U.S. and Canada adopted a new approach to the way maple syrup is graded. Here’s a bit of 411 on the sweet stuff, and a guide to how it’s graded.
Maple syrup typically comes from the sap of the sugar maple, black maple or red maple, though several other types can also be tapped. In the Pacific Northwest, bigleaf maple trees are used. Roughly 75 percent of maple syrup comes from Quebec. Vermont is known to produce some quality sauce as well. It’s harvested as sap, which is boiled away to produce the more concentrated syrup. Forty gallons of sap might produce around 1 gallon of syrup, but the amount varies widely depending on the sugar content of the sap.
GRADE A MAPLE SYRUP
Maple syrup grades used to range from AA to D, with AA being light and D signifying a darker syrup. Now, Grade A represents the full spectrum of syrups intended for personal consumption. Grade A is subdivided according to the shade of the syrup, or, more technically, how much light can pass through it, as measured by a spectrophotometer. The subcategories look like this:
- Grade A Golden: More than 75 percent of light shone on the syrup passes through
- Grade A Amber: 50 to 74.9 percent of light passes through
- Grade A Dark: 25 to 49.9 percent of light passes through
- Grade A Very Dark: Less than 25 percent of light passes through
As you might guess, the flavors get progressively stronger and richer as the color gets darker.
Syrup that does not meet the color, clarity and flavor standards to qualify as Grade A is designated Processing Grade syrup, which is still fit for consumption but better suited to industrial uses. It might have a slightly off-maple flavor, or a color that does not comply with the standards for one of the preferred grades. This type of syrup cannot be packaged in consumer-sized containers smaller than five gallons.
MAPLE SYRUP IN BRIEF
Whatever color and flavor profile you prefer, maple syrup makes a great, naturally sweet topping or ingredient for a lot of dishes. Obviously it’s perfect on pancakes and waffles, and it’s also nice drizzled on Greek yogurt and porridge, or used to sweeten coffee or tea or even salad dressing. All maple syrup earns an A+ in my classroom.
What do you put maple syrup on? Let us know in the comments below.
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