I've been using maple syrup for years without really thinking about it other than the taste is purely divine. I've always purchased the amber maple syrup found at the local grocery store. It's the perfect sweetness on pancakes, waffles and french toast, hot cereal and granola, yogurt and ice cream, sweet potatoes and squash, in coffee and milkshakes. Best of all it's a natural sweetener that gives baked goods aka dog treats a healthy deliciousness.
We recently went to the Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain, Georgia where I learned quite a bit about both maple syrup (and honey too but that's another post). I also tasted several brands and grades with Mom & Pop's Vermont Maple Syrup far exceeding the rest.
How Maple Syrup Is Made
99% of the maple trees grow wild but it takes about 40 years for them to grow big enough (8 to 12 inches in diameter) to tap. In the early spring the maple trees are tapped. To do the least amount of damage 1/4-inch "health spouts" are used. A hole is drilled in the maple tree about an inch and a half deep usually about 4 feet up from the ground unless there's 4 feet of snow. Then the spout is pounded in with a hammer and a 5/16" sap line is attached to it. Each sap line is attached to a main line that runs downhill to the sugar shack where it’s collected in a collecting tank.
The sap is like water with a hint of sweetness in it. Usually sap runs about 2.2% of sugar content at the early part of the season. As the season progresses, the sugar content usually decreases. Everything with maple sap is a guess. The weather determines if the season is a good one or a poor one. When enough sap has been collected, it’s boiled down and made into syrup. The sugaring season usually lasts 4 - 6 weeks depending on the weather.
When the season starts in the early spring, trees are usually producing sap with a sugar content of 2.2%, so it takes 39 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. As the season progresses, the sap's sugar content decreases. At the end of the season, sugar content generally goes down to about 1.4% or 1.5%, so it takes 57 - 61 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
The Benefits Of Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup is made from tree sap which is boiled and drained. It’s not processed and is free of chemically modified and artificial ingredients. High quality maple syrup is 100% natural (when labeled as such), meaning that it contains no coloring agents, artificial flavors, or additives. Maple syrup has fewer calories than other natural sweeteners such as honey, agave, and sugar.
Maple syrup supplies energy in the form of simple carbs. During workouts, the electrolytes in its natural sugars increase stamina while its high levels of magnesium and zinc help with muscle recovery and replenish the body with nutrients after exercising.
The Grades Of Maple Syrup
There are four grades to choose between to select for that perfect amount of depth and sweetness you want.
- Vermont Fancy has a light golden or amber color with a very light, delicate maple taste. It's good on ice cream or foods where a subtle flavor is desired.
- Vermont Medium Amber has a medium amber color with a pronounced maple taste. This is the most recommended for general use.
- Vermont Dark Amber has a dark amber color with a robust taste.
- Vermont Grade B Dark is the darkest of the four table grades and has the strongest maple taste of them all. This is the one to use in baked goods.
Substituting Maple Syrup For Sugar
To replace 1 cup of granulated sugar use 3/4 cup to 1 cup of maple syrup.
For baked goods reduce the liquid by 2 to 4 tablespoons per 1 cup of maple syrup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Storing Maple Syrup
Maple Syrup should be stored in a cool dark place. Once opened, it must be refrigerated. For indefinite storage use the freezer. It won't freeze solid and can be poured out into small containers for use. Maple syrup purchased in tin containers should be poured into plastic or glass containers before refrigerating or freezing.
If opened and not refrigerated there is a chance mold will develop on the surface. The syrup isn't spoiled and can be restored by heating almost to a boil and skimming the mold from the surface or filter through a cheesecloth. Be careful since boiling syrup will swell quickly and can go over the side of the pot.
Make Maple Butter
Maple Butter Is a spread that can go on toast, bagels, muffins, breads or most any other morning treats. You can make maple butter easily. Start by making a small amount.
Take a quarter cup of real butter and let it warm to room temperature. now place the butter in a cup, add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and stir until they blend together. if you want more of the maple taste, just add more maple syrup or use a darker grade.
Extra Maple Goodies
Maple cream is maple syrup that has been cooked to the soft-ball stage, cooled, and then stirred until it turns into a fine, smooth spread with a pale color. It makes a great icing on sticky buns, toast, biscuits, and cupcakes. Even though it has "cream" in the name, maple cream is 100% pure Vermont maple syrup and does not contain any dairy products. Maple cream should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer ASAP after purchase. It can also be kept in the freezer for a lifetime plus 1 day. In the freezer, the maple cream will be firmer, but will not freeze.
Maple Sugar can be used in place of regular sugar in tea, coffee, or your favorite recipes.
Maple Candy is a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth maple candy that's almost like fudge. Hard Maple Candies have a sweet, buttery flavor.
Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post. We purchased the maple syrup and want to share because it's that good!