Recently, I received an email reminder that the maple season is about to begin. Every year, my family enjoys a pancake breakfast at the local farm. They open up the sugaring shed to the public and hold demonstrations detailing the process it takes to produce this breakfast staple.
We have been lucky to participate in hands-on sugaring programs where we learned about the steps taken from tapping the trees, to collecting the sap, to boiling it down. At these events, I have been able to sample different sweet treats, including maple syrup cotton candy.
Although not required, most United States varieties are assigned a grade. Grade is typically determined by color, and to some extent, by flavor. Some factors that affect grading is sugar content of the sap, what point in the season it was harvested, and the rate of evaporation. During a trip to Vermont, I was able to attend a maple syrup tasting. I was offered samples of each grade in order to figure out which one was my favorite.
US Grade A Light Amber
Foodal recommends Ferguson Farms 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, Grade A Fancy Light
This is also known as “Fancy Syrup” and is the highest grade available, making it the most expensive. This variety is generally produced early in the season, when the temperature is cooler. Higher temperatures contribute to sap fermentation, which contributes to the characteristics of the other grades.
US Grade A Medium Amber
Foodal recommends Coombs Family Farms 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup, Medium Amber
This variety is darker and has a stronger maple flavor than the light amber. Medium amber is an all purpose product, used to top pancakes and waffles. Some people even use it in place of chocolate sauce on top of an ice cream sundae.
US Grade A Dark Amber
Foodal recommends Brown Family Farms Pure Maple Syrup, US grade A Dark Amber
This deep colored syrup is very strong and features a deep caramel color. Like medium amber, it also can be used for all of your table needs.
US Grade B
This dark, richly flavored variety is primarily used for baking and is also known as “dark robust.” It is the least expensive type available.
Grade is an important factor to consider when purchasing maple syrup, but you should use your personal preferences as your guide. Sample a few varieties to determine which variety meets your needs.
When serving pancakes or waffles, warm your syrup so it thins out a little. This will help it to go farther, plus it is so much nicer to enjoy on top of a hot breakfast.
My children love making homemade waffles. Sometimes, they even request to have breakfast for dinner. Light and fluffy, these waffles are a family favorite.
About Jennifer Swartvagher
Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.