December 17 is National Maple Syrup Day.
Poured over pancakes, waffles, and French toast, maple syrup is a staple in most North American households. It’s important to note many people use pancake syrup as a cheaper alternative, but it has little maple flavor. Some people mistakenly refer to pancake syrup as maple syrup.
Maple syrup is a thick, viscous liquid usually made from the xylem sap of the sugar maple, red maple, or black maple tree. Maple trees are tapped by boring holes into their trunks to collect sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving a concentrated syrup.
Native Americans were the first to harvest the sap and boil it down into syrup. The practice was adopted by European settlers, who gradually refined production methods.
Quebec, Canada, is by far the largest producer of maple syrup, responsible for about three-quarters of the world’s output.
Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, United States, or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency. In Canada, syrups must be at least 66% sugar and be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup. In the United States, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labelled as “maple”, though states such as Vermont and New York have more restrictive definitions.
The International Maple Syrup Institute has been working on international grading standards. Transition to a new system is expected in the coming years. Beginning in 2014, Vermont has adopted a new grading system replacing the previous five grades from Fancy to Grade C, to four levels of color and flavor intensity. All grades will now be Grade A, to reflect that there is not a difference in quality, but rather in color and flavor intensity.Grades of Maple Syrup:
- Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Flavor (previously Vermont Fancy)
- Grade A: Amber Color with Rich Flavor (previously Grade A Medium Amber)
- Grade A: Dark Color with Robust Flavor (previously Grade A Dark Amber )
- Grade A: Very Dark Color with Strong Flavor (previously Grade B)
Be sure to enjoy some real maple syrup today!
image courtesy of Dvortygirl, Wikipedia.org