Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Grade A and Grade B organic maple syrup? We were taught as children that an A was always better than a B…but with maple syrup, that’s not always the case.
Organic Maple Syrup Origins
Organic maple syrup is a tree syrup (also, birch and palm sugars, which are tree syrups/sugars) and these are made from evaporated sap of these trees. The maple tree originated in Japan or China. According to one of my favorite authors, Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, there are four species of maple in North America that are good for sugaring. According to McGee, one species, the Acer saccharum, supplies most of our maple syrup due to the quantity and quality of sap it produces. Weather conditions have a significant impact on the flavors, so most maple sap is collected in the northeastern US and eastern Canada.
Another interesting scientific fact is that other trees such as birch, elm and hickory also produce sap. Maple sap is unique in that the tree stores sugar from the prior season and pushes those out in the spring after the first thaw. The sugar is pushed out of the trunk into the actively growing zone called (think back to your biology classes….), the cambium. Enough science for today (and thanks, again, Mr. McGee).
Organic Maple Syrup Production
A tap into the cambium allows sap to run off, which is collected and concentrated. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce a gallon of syrup. The evaporation can be done using heat, though most manufacturers today use reverse osmosis. According to McGee, Native Americans used the fact that spring evenings could still be freezing at night in New England. The sap was laid out in vessels and the water would freeze overnight. In the morning, the ice would be broken and disposed of. The sugar didn’t freeze, only the water – so over the course of several days, the water would freeze and be discarded and the sap grew browner and sweeter. So, for those of you New Englanders who have an Acer saccharum variety maple tree in your yard, you can use the original, no-tech method and produce some of your very own organic maple syrup….but back to our grades.
Organic Maple Syrup Grades
The longer the sap is evaporated, the stronger the flavor becomes. The final composition, according to McGee, is approximately 62% sucrose, 34% water, 3% glucose and fructose and 0.5% malic acid and other acids as well as trace amino acids. The longer and hotter the syrup is processed, the more intense the flavor and sugar content.
Grade A is assigned to lighter syrup, which has a more delicate flavor and less concentrated sugars. This grade is often used to pour onto foods such as pancakes and waffles.
Grade B is assigned to darker, heavier syrup with a more intense flavor profile and more concentrated sugars. It typically has more caramel flavor and is often used in baked goods, glazes and other cooking/baking uses.
Grade C is no longer used as a designation, it was combined with Grade B, so you won’t find Grade C available in the U.S.
If you’re like me, you use maple syrup somewhat sparingly – it’s a relatively expensive sweetener (but well worth the flavor it adds). I keep Grade B on hand and use it both for pouring over my delicious organic pancakes (recipe another time) as well as in baking and cooking.
Organic Maple Syrup Products To Try
shopOrganic & shopGMOFree offer several maple syrup options worth exploring. I’ve listed a few below that you might want to try.
Cadia Organic Grade A Maple Syrup, 12 oz., glass bottle.Want to try Grade A? Cadia makes a wonderful Grade A organic maple syrup in a glass bottle perfect for giving or receiving (hint: gift idea). Delicious over pancakes, waffles, in your oatmeal or in any dish you want a delicate maple flavor.
Shady Maple Pure Organic Maple Syrup, Grade B, 32 oz., Plastic jug.This hefty 32 ounce plastic jug from Shady Maple contains 100% pure organic Grade B maple syrup. This is the one I keep on hand for all my baking, cooking and topping needs. This Grade B is not as pretty as its Grade A counterpart, but the price is slightly lower and the flavor more intense, suits me fine.
Frontier Cooperative, Organic Maple Syrup Granules, 16 oz. (dry)Frontier makes organic maple syrup granules, which are course sugar-like granules that can be used as you would any granulated (dry vs. liquid) sweetener. These granules impart that wonderful maple flavor, so it’s a great substitute sugar for baked goods where a maple flavor would add a desired dimension.Or, click here to browse all organic maple syrup products at shopOrganic & shopGMOFree.
This time of year can be tempting with all the delicious food folks cook up and bring to work. This holiday season, I’m trying out new recipes to see if I can put a healthier twist on some of my favorites. This is the first one, though admittedly, it’s not that much healthier than traditional pumpkin pie – but it IS guaranteed to impress for about the same amount of effort as homemade pumpkin pie. Without the crust, it’s certainly fewer calories and next time I make this, I’ll try a vegan version using organic oat milk instead of the luscious half and half.
Here’s how it started – I got a box of Pacific Foods organic pumpkin puree as a trial and thought I’d do something different. With a quiet afternoon (a rare gift in my world) and a recipe in hand, I looked through my pantry to see if I had all the ingredients. Miraculously, I did. Pumpkin souffle ensued.
Tips for making a great soufflé
- Ensure your eggs are at room temperature. Take the out at least 20 minutes in advance.
- When you separate your egg yolks from egg whites, ensure there is NO yolk in the whites.
- Put the whites in a stainless steel bowl that is clean and has no grease or oil at all.
- When you fold in the egg whites, be slow and gentle, it’s worth the extra 10 minutes of effort.
- When you put the ramekins in the oven, do not open the oven at all. Trust your oven and your timer.
4 organic, free range (local, if available) eggs
1 ½ cups Pacific Foods organic pumpkin puree (1 box).
½ cup organic sugar + ¼ cup sugar for egg whites
½ cup organic half & half
½ teaspoon organic vanilla (I use Singing Dog because it has the added bonus of a vanilla bean inside)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
First Things First
Preheat your oven to 375. Make sure one of the racks is in the center of the oven.
Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Ensure no yolk leaks into the whites. (Hint: I separate the egg, then pour the white into another bowl and repeat. That way, if one egg yolk breaks, you haven’t ruined all the egg whites). Set egg whites and egg yolks aside.
Make Your Pumpkin Puree Mixture
In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, ½ cup sugar (use ¼ cup here if you like less sweet, more pumpkin flavor), your spices, vanilla and salt. Set aside. If you’re going to use an alternative to organic granulated cane sugar, you might want to experiment with the recipe once or twice. Who needs the stress of wondering if your ‘new’ recipe will turn out properly on a big holiday?
Prepare 8 ramekins on a baking sheet. I usually melt a bit of organic butter (or soften to room temperature) – about a pat of butter size – and grease the inside of the ramekins. Set on the baking dish and set aside.
Preparing Your Egg Whites
Beat your egg whites with the ¼ tsp of cream of tartar. If using an electric mixer (recommended), start off slowly. As the whites firm up, gradually increase speed. When they are still soft but starting to form peaks, slowly (1-2 TBS at a time is slowly) mix in your remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Continue to beat with all the sugar added until the egg whites are shiny and stiff.
Take about ½ of your pumpkin puree out of the bowl (yes, it makes another dirty bowl, but worth it) and set aside. Slowly fold in the egg whites about a ½ cup at a time into ½ the pumpkin mixture. Once you’ve gently folded in about ½ the egg whites, add the remaining pumpkin puree back into the large bowl and continue folding the egg whites in. The more slowly and the more of a folding motion you use, the more air that will remain in the egg whites and the fluffier your soufflé will turn out.
Fill Your Ramekins
Once all folded in, use a ladle to fill your ramekins to just below the rim.
Bake, Don’t Peek
Place in the middle of your oven at 375 for 17 minutes. Do not open the oven, don’t even turn on the light to peek. At 17 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool. As you can see (below), my souffle caved in a bit – I think my oven is just a shade cooler than 375, so next time, I’ll either use an oven thermometer to verify the temperature or leave them in about three minutes longer. Still, I ate one of the smaller ones and it was perfect – so don’t distress if yours cave a bit upon cooling – it happens and it will still taste amazing and even the best will settle a bit.
You can serve immediately – place each ramekin on a small plate, dust with organic powdered sugar (if desired) or an organic cinnamon/organic sugar mix (you can free form this) or organic whipped cream, some mint sprigs for color – your choice! I serve them just as they are and they’re scrumptious!
Happy Thanksgiving – enjoy these tasty little treats instead of pumpkin pie this holiday season!
I had dinner Monday night with some friends who live in San Diego, CA. We were talking about California Prop 37 which was to introduce mandatory GMO labeling. They indicated that they didn’t think it would pass, though they were in support of it.
A good law poorly crafted?
They had mixed thoughts on this subject because, in their view, they wanted to see GMO labeling of food but they thought the proposition itself was poorly crafted. I hadn’t read it myself, so I can’t speak to that, but in the aftermath of the proposition losing, that may have contributed to the loss.
Prop 37 was defeated by California voters at the polls on Tuesday. Many proponents of honest GMO labeling are likely disappointed today that the proposition failed.
Consumers in California have been bombarded with information and disinformation about GMOs, but they are now AWARE of GMOs and they at least have heard about the dangers.
The silver lining on the defeat of Prop 37
I am an eternal optimist and I believe consumers in California and around the country will take the time and make the effort to educate themselves about GMOs. Jeffrey Smith’s book and documentary, Genetic Roulette, is an excellent starting point for getting up to speed on the discussion about the impact of GMOs not only on our food sources but on our health, and the proper nutrition that would have compelled food manufacturers to indicate when their ingredients included Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) was defeated. I’m disappointed the proposition to require GMO labeling failed, but I’m encourage because it has raised the question and sparked the debate about GMOs in our food.
When we re-launched shopOrganic as shopOrganic & shopGMOfree – For The Greater Goods (sm) – we wanted to underscore not only our commitment to GMO-free foods but to let our customers know that whatever they buy at shopOrganic & shopGMOfree, they can trust it does not contain GMOs. As one of our customers put it “When I shop any where else, I have no idea if the product contains GMOs. When I shop with you, I don’t have to think about it. I just know that if you sell it, it doesn’t have GMOs and that’s all I really need to know. You make it so easy.” GMO labeling would make it really easy, but until then, we’re doing our homework so you don’t have to.
The point is, we are happy to provide that service, but at the end of the day, food manufacturers should have to be more transparent and specific in their GMO labeling. Consumers are savvy and the tide is turning, albeit slowly. Until then, you can shopOrganic & shopGMOfree knowing everything we offer is organic and/or GMO-free.
Now that the elections are over, perhaps we can continue to educate consumers about GMOs and eventually require manufacturers to label GMOs or better yet, stop using them. Onward.
Photo credit: cheeseslave
I just finished watching the movie Genetic Roulette online for the third time. Each time I watch it, I notice some new facet about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that I hadn’t noticed as clearly before. This time, it was the stark fact that the chemical companies who promote GMOs have been promising that the use of GMOs would create higher yields of food and therefore feed the world. Read the Union of Concern Scientists’ Failure to Yield report.
The truth is quite different. First, without GMOs, there is plenty of food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is not the production of food, but the distribution of food which is a whole other problem to solve. So, let’s put that misinformation to rest.
Still, chemical companies would have you believe that we NEED GMOs in order to manage our production so we can all eat more at a lower cost. In most industrialized nations, the problem is not about having enough food and it’s become more a problem of having healthy food.
According to the Union of Concern Scientists, the promises of increased production are false. According to the USC, “Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.”
In fact, many farmers are beginning to see that their yields are lower after buying these GMO seeds and spraying chemical products on those seeds. One cotton farmer interviewed in Genetic Roulette said he began to really question his initial decision to use GMO seed when he began reading the dire health warnings on the seed bag itself. Don’t eat it, don’t touch it, don’t breath it, don’t let it touch your skin….sounds like the warning label on poison, doesn’t it?
The bottom line is this – chemical companies like Monsanto have been promoting the use of chemicals under the promise of higher yields (i.e. more crops for the farmer as lower costs), and that has not been the case. As farmers see their crop yields drop and their animals suffer from eating GMO crops, they’re beginning to understand that their livelihood depends on them NOT using GMOs.
The tide is turning and as the links between GMOs and human health, livestock health, crop yields and agricultural sustainability are known, people will vote with their dollars and avoid GMOs. Our health as a nation, as a world and as a species literally depends on it.
This month is the 3rd annual non-GMO month and shopOrganic has relaunched as shopOrganic & shopGMOFree because we believe consumers should have the ability to purchase foods they know is free of GMOs. But, as a consumer, you don’t always know – you can’t see from reading a label what ingredients might be GMOs.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, there’s a lot of buzz around genetically modified organisms (GMO) right now, especially in light of the upcoming California vote on Prop 37, which would require manufacturers to label GMOs in their products.
California is the 8th largest economy in the world (yes, you read that right), so if manufacturers are required to label GMOs in California, all products they sell (likely) will be labeled since it’s not cost-effective to have packaging for California and packaging for the rest of the country.
I can’t speak to the text of California’s Prop 37 – I’m not a voter there and haven’t read the bill in its entirety. However, I can speak to wanting to know what’s in the food I’m eating. That’s pretty fundamental. And, to repurpose one of the common arguments FOR Prop 37, if GMOs are not harmful or better yet, if they’re so great, why the refusal to label them as such?
When foods are packed with Omega 3’s, manufacturers splash that all over the packaging. The big thing right now seems to be “made with 33g whole grain”, which I honestly don’t know exactly why that matters since that product has 1g fiber per serving….but I digress. The point is when there’s a health benefit – real or perceived – manufacturers are quick to pounce on it and announce it all over their packaging, even when it’s just “window dressing”. So why don’t we see big splashy packaging announcing “packed with GMOs!” or “made with the latest GMOs, try it today and taste the difference!” ?
Manufacturers don’t advertise it because there is no consumer benefit to GMOs in foods (lots of downside, but that’s for another post). The benefit is to large growers and manufacturers and, as most major issues in life, it comes down to money. Maybe it’s about control as well, but ultimately, I think it’s just about the money.
So, here’s my suggestion – since this is the 3rd annual non-GMO month, check out the movie Genetic Roulette (www.geneticroulette.com) or visit the folks at Responsible Technology (www.responsibletechnology.org) to learn more. It’s a fascinating topic and when you have a wide range of really smart people from many different social and scientific disciplines opposing GMOs, it’s worth paying attention to. Learn more, become informed, form your own opinion.
In the meantime, shopOrganic just relaunched as <a href=”http://www.shoporganic.com” target=”blank”>shopOrganic & shopGMOFree</a> to let our customers know that every product we carry is <b>free of GMOs.</b> We’ve dropped entire product lines because the manufacturer indicated their products all contain some GMOs (that was a real jaw-dropper). We’ve added new products (often from smaller producers) to offer products that we know are organic & GMO-free. Visit today and shop safe.
So, I’ve let this blog get a bit stale, we’ve been busy running our growing company, but I’m happy to announce we’re re-booting our blog and revamping our website this month in honor of the 3rd annual non-GMO month.
shopOrganic, the premier online retailer of organic foods and eco-friendly products, has just re-launched as shopOrganic & shopGMOfree.
Without mandatory labeling, it’s difficult for consumers to determine whether their favorite products are produced using GMO’s. As U.S. consumer concern over GMO’s reaches critical mass, interest in non-GMO shopping options is on the rise and shopOrganic & shopGMOFree have responded by offering the widest range of organic and non-GMO products available online today.
shopOrganic has responded to this need by ensuring that the thousands of organic foods and eco-friendly products offered on their site are GMO free. The newly redesigned site focuses on consumers searching for non-GMO foods and provides reassurance about the nature of the products they purchase. The timing of the re-launch coincides with both the celebration of the 3rd annual Non-GMO month and the upcoming California vote on the labeling of GMO products.
I was amazed to learn that recent studies show that over 90% of all Americans want to know if their food contains genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). I knew there was serious interest in this topic, but I didn’t realize so many Americans shared this concern about GMOs. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant or animal whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. And though the data is not definitive on the safety of consuming foods with GMOs, it seems reasonable to WANT know whether or not the food you’re eating contains GMOs. In the U.S. there are currently no restrictions on GMO’s, but in many other countries around the world, GMOs are banned. These countries include the entire European Union as well as China and Russia. Curious why the U.S. is so far behind this curve….
shopOrganic & shopGMOfree believes that everyone has a right to safe and healthy food and they make it easy for concerned consumers to shop without the worry that they’ll be feeding themselves and their families GMO foods.
October marks the 3rd annual Non-GMO Month. Started in order to raise awareness of GMO’s this month-long educational opportunity broadens the knowledge to a wider and wider population each year. The issue has created a groundswell of concern in California, where their population will soon vote on Proposition 37, a GMO labeling initiative. Whether or not that proposition passes, shopOrganic & shopGMOfree remains a trusted non-GMO shopping source.
This week, we celebrate your two year anniversary. What an eventful two years its been. In early 2008, when our plans for launching this business and the shopOrganic.com website were forming, we had no idea that the economy was about to fall out from beneath our feet. We had high hopes and when we clicked the button to publish the site and make it live that evening on May 8, 2008, we thought great things were about to happen. And we were right…sort of ….
We had strong sales at first, but as the economic cloud get getting bigger and darker, we grew concerned that our sales wouldn’t grow fast enough and that our start up cash would run out before we hit our stride.
We have continued to do what we do best – find the highest quality, most unique and wonderful organic, fair trade and eco-friendly products available; offer them on our easy-to-use website and provide THE best customer service anywhere on the planet. It’s a simple but powerful combination and judging from our repeat customers, we know it’s a winning formula.
As we look back, we recognize the long hours, the hard work and the stress we endured to create this company. As we look forward, we see a bright horizon and wonderful opportunities awaiting us. We have big, BIG plans for the future and we’re confident we’ll be able to create this new future with a bit of help from our loyal customers, new customers and maybe an angel investor or two….
For now, we continue to wake up every day thankful that we do what we love and make a difference in people’s lives. We would love to hear your comments and thoughts about our two year anniversary – feel free to comment here or visit shopOrganic and submit comments through our online form.
Thanks to everyone who made the first two years possible. We believe that our very survival over this two year period is a huge victory and we appreciate everyone along the way who encouraged, supported, offered us discounts to get us going and most of all our customers who make every day a great day at shopOrganic.
I was reading an article this morning in the NY Times online on how to care for your joints in hopes of avoiding joint replacement later in life. (See NY Time Join Care article). It’s a decent article with common sense reminders – maintain a healthy weight, be kind to your joints, etc. Nothing new, certainly nothing we didn’t already know. What disappointed me was that there was no mention of good nutrition anywhere in the article.
Good overall nutrition is important for good overall health. Makes sense but rarely is maintaining a healthy diet “prescribed” as part of a preventive program such as that for avoiding hip or knee replacement. Certainly the mechanics of the body are vitally important and are often what determine whether one’s joints wear out through daily living – I’m guessing heredity may also play a role.
Still, something as simple as healthy food can make a significant difference on all the body’s finely tuned systems. Eat healthy, be well.
Join us at shopOrganc.com for the best organic food anywhere – your body deserves the best!
We’ve been so busy growing our business, we sort of lost site of this wonderful spot on the web where we can connect with you and share our thoughts, stories and successes. Well, now that we’ve reconnected, we’ll keep this place fresh – so please stop by again soon.