I love maple syrup. It is my #1 sweetener of choice. All natural, made from maple tree sap and animal product free. I mash it into sweet potatoes, drizzle it into soy yogurt, marinate savory-sweet tempeh with it, spoon it into smoothies, and whip it into baked goods. Ah, luscious maple syrup has an earthy caramel smell with woody notes of vanilla, one sniff and I am transported to a cozy log cabin in the woods overlooking a winter white snowbank. Inside, I sit fireside and sip tea, snugly in my soft slippers; in the kitchen fluffy pancakes sizzle on a hot grill and a tall pitcher of maple syrup on the table awaits my grasp.
The Grade B Myth. My love affair with the maple leaf got quite complex as I realized that my true love Grade A syrup may not be my true love at all! Is it the scruffy, dark toned, musty Grade B syrup that my palate truly desires? And what about nutrient facts and a taste test? Drizzle on the A, B, C’s of maple syrup grades…
Trader Joe’s Grade B syrup. Made in Quebec Canada. For weeks now something had caught my eye in the maple syrup section of Trader Joe’s. It was my beloved sweetener, only the label read Maple Grade B syrup. Desiring only the highest in quality of syrups, I always grabbed the Grade A maple syrup. But last week I was feeling adventurous. So I reached out my arm, grabbed the Grade B syrup and crammed it in my crowded cart. My husband looked at me like I was nuts. “Grade B? Why would you buy that? Get the good stuff.” He grabbed a Grade A in its shiny glass bottle. I shook my head and sped off down the aisle without him. I was an adventurous foodie, and this Grade B stuff needed a try. I’m such a syrup rebel.
Maple Grade B Syrup. Wow, when I tasted my freshly popped Grade B syrup I was in for a surprise. And I was pleased to learn that Grade B is higher in nutrients than grade A.
Grade A vs. Grade B. Grade A syrup is produced early on in the season and is characterized by its light amber color. Lighter color, less minerals. Grade A is said to be the most preferred grade by consumers because of its light maple flavor and reminiscence of synthetic maple syrups, aka corn syrup based impostors. Grade B is produced later in the season and has a darker, grittier color, thicker viscosity, more robust maple flavor and more minerals. Grade B has a heavy maple flavor that lingers on your taste buds.
Tasting Notes: The Grade A tastes like simple sweetness, almost an agave sweet taste, then it develops on your tongue to give you a nice delicate maple flavor after taste. The Grade B hits you hard with a warm gritty maple flavor, then lingers for a while leaving a muted musty maple tone on your palate.
The Foodies Choice: Grade B? It is said that those with more sophisticated palates will prefer the Maple Grade B Syrup. Well, that’s what my husband confirmed for me when I gave him a blind “A vs. B” taste test and he chose ‘B’ as the better tasting syrup. Several online blogs echo this verdict. Grade B flavor is more complex and robust. Chefs seeking a hearty maple flavor will likely choose the Grade B option. It is also true that you get more maple “bang for your buck” with Grade B. A strong flavor means you may have to use less syrup in your recipe to achieve your desired flavor. Pieces of Vermont website says, “For a long time Vermont Fancy was the preferred table syrup grade, but in recent years we’ve seen a shift. People are now opting for the robust flavor of Grade B as their “all-purpose” cooking and table syrup.”
What is Maple Syrup? Back-up a bit maple newbies. Maybe you need the basics: what is maple syrup? Pure maple syrup is made from Maple Tree sap. The sap is boiled into a syrup. Here is a good explanation from MassMaple.org:
“Pure maple syrup is a 100% natural food, processed by heat concentration of pure maple sap. This sap is a sterile, clear liquid, which provides the trees with water and nutrients prior to the buds and leaves opening in the spring. In the boiling, concentrating, and filtering processes, all the nutrients remain in the syrup. There are some quantitative differences in maple syrup’s nutritive composition due to metabolic and environmental differences among maple trees.”
Grade B vs Grade A: Nutrition Facts.
*Grade B has 8% RDA of calcium per 1/4 cup serving, while Grade A only has 4% RDA of calcium per serving.
*All grades of maple syrup contain the minerals: zinc, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. Grade B contains higher quantities of these nutrients, the darker the color the more minerals are present.
*The vitamins that are present in trace amounts in maple syrup are B1, B2, B5, B6, biotin and folic acid.
more nutrient facts: http://www.massmaple.org/nutrition.html
Maple Syrup Fun Facts:
Fact: It takes on average 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. This amount can vary greatly depending on the sap sweetness level.
Q: What is the optimum temperature for maple sap flow?
A: The Human Connection: One of the most fascinating facts I learned about maple syrup production is in regards to the necessary climate temperature for optimal sap flow. The answer reminds me a lot of my hot/cold water therapy to stimulate blood circulation. Here is the answer from MassMaple.org:
“The tree’s sap flow mechanisms depend on temperatures which alternate back and forth past the freezing point (32 degrees F.). The best sap flows come when nighttime temperatures are in the low 20’s and daytime temperatures are in the 40’s. The longer it stays below freezing at night, the longer the sap will run during the warm day to follow. If the weather gets too cold and stays cold, sap flow will stop. If the weather gets too warm and stays warm, sap flow will stop……For good sap production, maple producers must have the alternating warm/cold temperatures. This is why its so impossible to predict the outcome of the maple crop from year to year.”
Fascinating! A living maple tree has better sap flow with varying hot/cold temperatures. Just like the hot/cold water therapy effect on our blood circulation.
What About Grade C? The mysterious and rare Grade C maple syrup is the obvious ‘next tasting step’ for any maple syrup connoisseur. According to current standards, the Grade C is only available to commercial clients who purchase large 40 gallon barrels of it.
Grade D? There are a few blurbs online suggesting that a Grade D maple syrup does exist. However, I have yet to find a credible source for this. Plus, there are quips that state that the old ‘grade D’ is now ‘Grade C’ and the old ‘Grade C’ is now ‘Grade B’. Confusing yes, but oh so delicious! Just give me some high quality maple syrup and I am a happy foodie.
Master Cleanse. One of the reasons that Grade B maple syrup has gained more consumer demand is because it is one of the key components of The Master Cleanse by Stanley Burroughs, also called the Lemonade Diet. Other components of his diet include cayenne, lemons, sea salt and tea. You can even buy a complete Master Cleanse kit on Amazon (I have never tried this detox diet, and do not endorse it, but the Grade B factor does intrigue me.):
And PS, Thank you maple trees for your glorious maple syrup sweetness!