Last week I talked about buckwheat flour and it’s uses for pancakes, waffles and other breakfast treats. That got me thinking about maple syrup and its importance as an ingredient.
Not too long ago I was talking to some friends about a recipe, and mentioned my hunt for Grade B maple syrup, and the response I got was “it has different grades?”
That got me to thinking that maybe the joys of real maple syrup were not as well known as I suspected. In an effort to rid the world of Aunt Jemima lets start with the basics. Maple Syrup is graded based on it’s color. Grade A is the lightest color and grade B is darker. Within those classifications there are different sub-classes.
The scale is actually quite simple, it relates directly to how much light passes through the syrup. it doesn’t get much easier that that. Maple syrup also has many health claims and diets associated with it, most famously the Master Cleanse, which always sounds far too ominous a title to be good for you. I always picture Master Blaster from Mad Max fame when I hear the phrase, and that does not make me think healthy thoughts
The lighter maple syrups tend to be used as breakfast syrup while the darker grades are typically more suited to cooking. The reason for that, is the lighter syrups have a much more delicate maple flavor that is easily overwhelmed by other flavors so you want to serve it as is. The darker syrups have a more intense maple flavor so you can combine them with other flavors and more than just sweet survives.
Regardless of your preference (if you have one) in grade I think we can all agree that maple is mostly known for its breakfast applications. Whether you like to drizzle it on to your waffles so it fills every single hole or you are a dunker of sausage then you will appreciate the flavor that real maple brings to the table.
In addition to its place at the breakfast table, maple syrup is very much at home in savory dishes. I use it a lot in my own cooking and it has seen a rise in popularity in restaurants and food shows in the last few years. A quick search returns over 4 million results for recipes. Many of those are related to different kinds of pancakes, waffles, and french toast, however there are many recipes for other desserts and savory applications. It resonates particularly well with pork. If you think about the way that maple syrup works with your breakfast sausage or bacon you can see why.
Based on your location and the country of origin for your syrup you may see some slightly different scales but as a general rule color is your guide.
If you are fortunate enough to live near a maple producing region of the world I can’t encourage you enough to find a produce and go for a tour if they offer them. Many time you can get a side by side tasting of the different grades and experience they incredible variance in flavor yourself. If not take the plunge and order 3 or 4 varieties from the internet and have a sampling yourself.