Organic Maple Syrup: When Getting a “B” Can Be Better than “A”
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.