5 Interesting Facts About Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is a popular treat in America. People eat it with pancakes, waffles, oatmeal and other meals. In fact, in 2015 alone, 3.4 million gallons of this sweetener were produced in the U.S. However there are many myths associated with maple syrup and they cause much confusion among the consumers. First of all, maple syrup is loved so much because of its rich flavor. Recently there have been many publications that state that it is a "natural" sweetener that's healthier than white sugar. So in this article we will try to dispel the popular myths about maple syrup.
Pancake Syrup and Maple Syrup Are Not the Same
Even though you may find them on the same shelf in a grocery store they are really different. When we say maple syrup we mean the sap from a maple tree that’s been boiled down to make the sugars caramelize. By the way, about 10 gallons of sap is needed to produce a quart of maple syrup.
Pancake syrup is more processed and is made of corn syrup and/or high-fructose corn syrup. It differs from maple syrup by the color, flavor, and may contain preservatives, including 4-MEI, a potential carcinogen. (see basic Pancake syrup recipe)
While maple syrup boasts a complex maple flavor with some hints of caramel, vanilla, and prune pancake syrups have distinct artificial flavors.
Recently some brands have introduced a relatively new product called maple water. Some people think that it is water with some maple syrup mixed in. However this is not true as maple water is the watery sap that's tapped from the tree and boiled down to make maple syrup. It typically contains approximately 5 grams of sugars per 8 ounces, depending on the brand.
Maple Syrup Is Not Healthier Than Sugar
While maple syrup does have more nutrients than regular while sugar and it is healthier than pancake syrup it can’t be considered healthy food. The reason is that maple syrup is added sugar anyway and scientists warn about eating too much of added sugar. It is recommended to limit the consumption of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.
You might be curious to know that ¼-cup of maple syrup contains 62 percent of your daily needs for riboflavin, about 9 percent of calcium, 8 percent of zinc, and 5 percent of potassium. But it should be noted that you can get the same nutrients by eating other more healthy foods that contain less calories. ¼-cup of maple syrup contains about 200 calories and 50 grams of sugars. Similarly, each tablespoon of maple syrup contains 50 calories and 12 grams of sugars, so make sure you use only a small amount of it. To use less maple syrup with your pancakes consider adding chopped bananas, berries, or other fruit for extra sweetness.
Grade A Is Not Better Than Grade B
Grade B syrup differs from grade A by a darker color and deeper flavor, but this does not make it lower quality. Many people prefer maple syrup of Grade B because of its rich flavor. But after the United States Department of Agriculture changed the labeling system for syrup so that it would meet international standards all maple syrup is now grade A ranging from golden color to very dark color.
People's tastes vary on the type of maple syrup they prefer for breakfast or brunch. In general the taste of dark syrups is more intense and complex compared to the amber syrups. The golden syrup is the sweetest and has the mildest flavor. The amber syrup is distinguished by more intense maple flavor while the dark syrup boasts the richest complex flavor.
Higher Price Doesn’t Mean Higher Quality
High price is not always a guarantee of superior quality of maple syrup. For example, Trader Joe’s 100 Percent Vermont Maple Syrup which received Excellent rating turned out to be the cheapest amber syrup while the most expensive amber syrup, Maple Grove Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup, got a Very Good Rating.
The same is true for the dark syrups. The most expensive syrup, Camp Pure Maple Syrup, was ranked Good but the cheapest one, Kirkland Signature (Costco) Organic Maple Syrup, was ranked Very Good. The two dark syrups ranked Excellent were mid-priced.
Maple Syrup Will Not Keep Indefinitely
Since maple syrup can grow mold it can’t be kept open for an unlimited period of time. An open container can be stored in the fridge for 6 to 12 months. An unopened container can be kept in a cool place for up to two years.
Some brands offer maple syrup in different-size containers. Typically the syrup sold per serving is cheaper when you buy it in bulk. To take advantage of the best deals on maple syrup you can purchase as much as you want and then store it in the freezer. Before serving maple syrup consider bringing it to room temperature or heating it a little.
Dark Maple Syrups
Dark syrups of Excellent quality are characterized by clean and complex with caramelized, slight vanilla, and woody flavors. The following syrups top the list of Very Good syrups—Kirkland Signature Organic Maple Syrup, Maple Grove Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup, and Archer Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup. They were very close to the Excellent mark, however the flavor of Cary's Maple Syrup Premium was less complex.
Good syrups featured a bit less maple intensity compared to the Very Good syrups. Trader Joe's 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup was a rather complex syrup featuring caramelized, vanilla, and woody flavors. The 365 Everyday Value Organic Maple Syrup and the Simply Balanced Organic Maple Syrup lacked maple intensity and other notes so they were ranked inferior than the Excellent syrups.
The Crown Maple Syrup Amber Color and Maple Grove Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup were ranked Very Good but their quality was worse than that of other syrups in this category.