A Primer on Maple Syrup

by Lauren Keiper on March 10, 2014

in Breakfast, Condiments, Featured

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Maple is a beloved ingredient over at Eat Boutique; if you need proof, look no further than these Six Maple Recipes and many syrupy items in our Shop! The maple love continues with Lauren’s Maple Primer, plus a few more maple-centric recipes that really showcase this natural sweetener. -Amy

It’s hard for me to imagine that we’re not far off from some (slightly) warmer weather in New England, like perhaps 40 degrees during the day but still freezing overnight?  It’s not much, but I’ll take it, because along with those climbing (and falling) temperatures comes this year’s crop of maple syrup.

While some people usher in early spring with first signs of produce like ramps, I have opted to relish in the sweet, gooey, sticky sap of sugaring season.  Sap flows from the taps of sugar maples for about four to six weeks each spring, usually throughout March. And from those gallons and gallons and gallons of sap comes the sweet, caramelized maple syrup we all adore.  We do all adore maple syrup, don’t we?

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Last year in the U.S. sugar makers produced more than three million gallons of maple syrup, a jump of more than 70 percent from 2012.  Vermont, of course, led the way producing upwards of one million of those gallons of the sweet stuff.  (Did you know that in addition to the New England states, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin produce maple syrup, too?!)

My beloved maple is labeled according to color and as it’s amber glow gets darker, it’s flavor gets stronger.  The darkest syrup (and therefore the syrup with the strongest flavor) has long been labeled Grade B, while three lighter variations are Grade A (Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber).

But those labels are changing, at least in Vermont, to start, with everything moving to a label of Grade A plus a detailed color description.  NPR had a great article outlining the efforts to standardize pure maple syrup classifications and the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association gives a nice maple grade users guide.

Once you get your preferred bottle in hand, it’s easy to find something to do with it. My go-to bottle is Sweet Brook Farm Grade A Medium Amber maple syrup, made in Williamstown, Mass.

I love the traditional uses for syrup like drowning my pancakes or French toast in it or drizzling some over my oatmeal or yogurt.  And on vacations to New England as a kid, who didn’t bring home maple sugar candy as a souvenir? More recently though, I’ve begun a love affair with Maple cream (thank you, Tonewood) which I will spread on just about anything (or eat off the spoon) and learned how to substitute maple syrup for white sugar in baking (easy instructions from Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association here). And in the spirit of finding some delicious new ways to enjoy maple, I came across these recipes to celebrate the sugaring season:

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A Doughnut Ice Cream Sandwich with Salted Maple Ice Cream and Caramel from Bakeaholic Mama.  I’m not kidding, a donut sandwiched with maple ice cream.

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And what about something a little boozy?  Morgan at Cheese and Chocolate dreamed up this gorgeous Figgy Maple Bourbon Fizz.

A Breakfast Burger with Maple Aioli from Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  Egg, maple, bacon, mustard, burger.  It gives “breakfast for dinner” a whole new, enjoyable meaning.

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If the snow keeps up into March, as it often does in New England, then celebrate the snow and celebrate the maple crop at the same time with this simple trick:  boil maple syrup, pour over snow and let it freeze for a moment, peel it off, and enjoy!  Thanks, Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama, for showing us how it’s done.

Have any of your tapped your own sugar maple and made syrup at home?  We’d love to hear about it!

Photos courtesy of Jessica, Carrie and Morgan.

Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramTumblr and Pinterest.

Lauren Keiper

Lauren is a writer who lives, eats and cooks in Boston with her husband.She's written for Reuters, the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal and Boston magazine.

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  • Carrie

    Lauren, Thanks so much for including me in this great post! So happy that spring is ALMOST here.

    • Lauren

      Me too! It was showing again this morning, not enough for maple snow toffee but still it made me think of your recipe!

  • anon

    was born in a suburb of boston and we used to do this as little kids, maple syrup on the snow :) brings back memories from a very, very long time ago :)

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