The season may be over but the opportunity to enjoy pure maple syrup continues year round.
Consumers Guide to Pure Maple Syrup
The other day I was shopping at my favorite local grocery chain and came upon the shelves where pancake mixes and table syrups are displayed. I quickly noticed that there was an extensive display of real maple syrup. Some was local and there was a variation in prices for similar containers and some packages were graded and some were not. It should be noted that some of the graded products were still using the old grading system. This adds to the confusion of what to buy. I guess you are supposed to pick out a size and a price that you want and go from there. Earlier in the summer when we offered samples of the different grades at a local county fair to potential consumers we learned that most did not even realize that maple syrup was graded and that there is a definite difference in the tastes of the various grades.
Two years ago this Fall the maple syrup industry completed the adoption of a new system for grading syrup. It took a long time to get everyone on the same page to complete the process that was officially started in 2011. The International Maple Syrup Institute took the old USDA Standard grades that included USDA Grade A Light, Medium and Dark and Grade B and transformed them into four new Grade A categories that would include all saleable syrup. In addition they also added flavor descriptors that describe the flavor of each grade.
The four Grade A categories are:
Golden Delicate has a golden color and a delicate or mild taste.
Amber Rich has a light amber color with a rich or full bodied taste.
Dark Robust has a dark amber color with a robust or stronger taste.
Very Dark Strong has a very strong pronounced maple taste.
Which syrup you like is a personal choice. When maple flavor experts taste Golden Delicate they can pick out its delicate maple, almost nutty flavor. This has been the Holy Grail of maple flavors for years, the one that most producers pride themselves on producing. Golden is most often referred to as first run syrup because its production happens at the start of the season when conditions are perfect. Amber Rich has been the standard of the industry. Amber Rich is darker than Golden but not as dark as the bottom two grades. It has a definite maple flavor that most people like. In our taste tests it is the one that most consumers pick out as their favorite. Dark Robust is fast becoming a favorite with many consumers. What they find is a darker syrup with a wholesome maple flavor. There is no doubt about what you tasting and it also works well for cooking. At one time maple producers did not want to produce the darker grades because they would be docked on price. Today a good portion the syrup produced and sold will fall in this category. . The Very Dark Strong Category includes the rest of the syrup that was formally classified as cooking syrup or Grade B. Most very dark syrup that is produced and does not have an off flavor or a density problem will fall in this category. It should be pointed out that the retail price in most markets does not change for any of the top 3 grades. The Very Dark Strong may be marketed with a modest reduction in price depending on where it is sold.
The new grading system has opened up a whole new dimension in marketing pure maple syrup. It allows the producer to not only sell syrup on color but also on flavor and after all, flavor is what sells maple syrup. Yet we still find ungraded syrup in stores. With what we know about producing and marketing maple syrup today it is almost unfair to put maple syrup in a jug that has not been graded. It would be like labeling a cut of meat as beef. You as a consumer would be buying the package of meat and not know if it was a Porterhouse Steak or Stew Meat. That type of marketing went out the window with the anticipation of finding out what the prize was in a box of Cracker Jacks. Today’s consumers are getting smarter about what they buy and are demanding more information about what they buy and what they eat.
Generally overall the new grading system has been well received at various locations where we introduced it to the public. At many fairs and shows we have been able to stimulate conversation about the characteristics of each individual grade. Using sample tasting is a great way to interact with consumers. Generally overall potential consumers liked Amber Rich but more and more are trying and enjoying Dark Robust. This has been a learning experience for both the producer and the consumers alike. Ultimately I think many of the producers end up learning a little more about consumer preferences and the product they are selling. Grading in many states is not mandatory and Ohio is one of them. Most consumers are really not familiar with how maple syrup is graded and the old grading system did not give much information about the product other than its color. The only thing that consumers could compare it to is your average table syrup which has no identity. This is where maple producers can take a lesson from the wine and craft beer industry. They have built a whole marketing program around identifying the various flavor characteristics of their product. Is it out of the realm of reality that we might someday include a tasting room in our sugarhouses where potential customers could sample the various grades of syrup and other value added products? Think about it, this could add a whole new dimension to the way we market maple syrup.
Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension
We asked and you answered! In anticipation of our story in the March/April Our Ohio magazine, here are the Facebook-submitted maple syrup recipes we received. Have one to add? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Candied Maple Bacon
Marsha Stanhope, Trumbull County Farm Bureau member
1 pound good quality bacon, sliced
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap a rimmed sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack. In a large bowl, add the maple syrup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Add the bacon to the bowl and toss gently with your hands. Make sure that all of the slices are evenly coated. Place the bacon in a single layer onto the wire rack. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes. The bacon will be a bit brown, but will most likely need to bake for another 10-15 minutes. It should look slightly dark (not burnt) and crispy. If you take it out too soon, the texture will be chewy. Be patient! Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the rack. Don’t let them sit too long or else they will stick. Once cool enough to handle, you can break the bacon into chards (you’ll have about 32 pieces). Alternatively, you can leave them whole. Serve at room temperature.
Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies
Eddie Lou Meimer, owner of Pleiades Maple, shares this recipe from her farmers market.
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 3/4 cup dark maple syrup (Pleiades Dark with Robust Flavor)
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Combine dry and wet ingredients. Add 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped pecans and mix.
Spoon onto greased cookie sheets or parchment paper. Bake at 365 degrees for 14-18 minutes.
Also from Eddie Lou:
Maple Strawberry Sauce
2 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups dark maple syrup
Bring to boiling and then simmer to desired thickness. Note: Usually temperature will reach about 225 when thick enough. Serve over ice cream.
We received two recipes from Melanie Springer, from Stark County:
Maple Glaze Munchies
4 cups corn cereal squares
1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
1 cup pecans
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
Mix cereal, pretzels and pecans. Melt butter in a pan, stir in maple syrup and mix well. Pour over cereal mix and stir to completely coat . Spread in sprayed jelly roll pan and bake 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread on waxed paper to cool.
2 chopped onions
2 tablespoon oil
4-5 sliced fresh peaches or 16 ounce can sliced peaches, drained
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add peach slices, cook 3 minutes. Add rest of ingredients except 1/4 cup vinegar and the lemon juice. Simmer on low, uncovered, 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add rest of vinegar and lemon juice. Mix well. Serve at room temperature. Great with chicken, turkey, ham or pork.
Marianne Britt Duvendack created this history-inspired cocktail recipe in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner and won an online contest sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
1 ounce pure maple syrup
1.5 ounces amber, aged rum
2-3 ounces unsweetened English breakfast tea, chilled
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whipped cream
Dash finely ground cinnamon
Chill a 6 ounce martini glass. Mix whipped cream with ground cinnamon and set aside. In a martini shaker, mix rum with iced tea and ice cubes. Shake well, set aside. Carefully pour maple syrup all over the inside of the glass. Slowly pour the tea and rum mix into the glass, straining out the ice. Float the whipped cream on top of the tea/rum mix, add a dash of ground cinnamon on top. Swizzle with a cinnamon stick.
Cynthia Spencer says this recipe is delicious and healthy, too! Enjoy!
Real Raw Chocolates
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (make sure it is melted).
4-6 tablespoons pure maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your chocolates)
Dash of salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium-size bowl, mix all ingredients. You want to incorporate all ingredients really well. You can whisk by hand or use a hand blender.
Put the mixture into fun molds. Place in the freezer for about 1 hour.
Tip: Store your chocolates in the freezer and take them out a few minutes before serving. They taste amazing!
Makes 24 chocolates.
Abbie Stucke Chandler submitted this from Rozanne Gold’s Radically Simple book. “I’ve gotten so many requests for this when I bring it to potlucks or food swaps. It’s great with crushed pistachios added, too.”
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic
Whisk together oil, maple syrup, vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Add the garlic pushed through a press. Add salt and pepper. Makes 1/2 cup.
Here are two recipes from Maryann Metz, from Auglaize County.
Maple French Toast Casserole
7 cups cubed French bread
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup warm heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place bread in a greased 2-qt. baking dish; press down gently. Sprinkle with raisins. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in whipping cream and syrup; mix well. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt; add to cream cheese mixture.
Pour evenly over bread; lightly press bread into egg mixture with a spatula. Cover; refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake 20-25 minutes longer or until center is set and the top is golden brown. Serve with syrup. Yield: 6 servings
French Toast Muffins
1 1/2 cups flour
One 3 ounce package vanilla instant pudding mix
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
3 slices white bread cubed
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Heat oven to 350.
Mix flour, dry pudding mix, baking powder, salt and 1 tsp. cinnamon in large bowl Beat 1 egg, 1/4 cup milk, 2 Tbsp. sugar and remaining cinnamon in medium bowl with whisk until blended. Add bread; stir until evenly moistened
Whisk remaining egg in medium bowl. Add butter, remaining milk and sugar; mix well. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. (Batter will be lumpy.) Spoon batter into 12 muffin pan cups sprayed with cooking spray. Top with bread mixture; press lightly into batter with back of spoon.
Bake 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Brush with syrup. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove to wire rack; cool slightly.
Cassie Menchhofer of Mercer County said, “Our family taps over 300 trees each February! We love using maple syrup all year long in a number of dishes.”
Maple Glazed Carrots
16 ounces baby carrots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
In a large skillet, cook the carrots, covered, in a small amount of boiling, salted water for 8-10 minutes, or just until the carrots are tender; drain. Set carrots aside.
For the glaze, in the same skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the maple syrup. cook and stir the mixture over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or just until the syrup is thickened and bubbly. Add the carrots, tossing gently until the carrots are coated with the glaze and heated through. Transfer the carrots to a serving bowl. Serves 4.