Welcome to our Farm based in the heart of the Catskill Mountains in Margaretville, New York. We have been making Maple Syrup on our farm for over 50 years, and although the tapping, collection and even boiling equipment has changed over the years, we still make some of the best Maple Syrup in the Catskill Mountains. We may not the largest producer in the state, but our attention to detail and keeping the operation family oriented, has allowed us to concentrate on the color and flavor of our syrup.
By Trisha Calvo Last updated: December 17, 2017 2.6K SHARES
On pancakes, waffles, oatmeal and more, Americans love maple syrup. The rich flavor is one reason why it's so popular, but it's also been touted as a "natural" sweetener that's better for you than regular old sugar. Not only is that not the case, but it's also just one of a few big misconceptions people have about maple syrup. For National Maple Syrup Day, we clear up the confusion and give the results of our recent maple syrup tests. (See the two tables below for our results of dark and amber maple syrups, with products listed in rank order.)
Although they may sit side by side on grocery store shelves, they couldn’t be more different. Maple syrup is actually sap from a maple tree that’s been boiled down to reduce the water content and concentrate the sugars. The sugars caramelize, resulting in its characteristic color and maple flavor. It takes about 10 gallons of sap to make just one quart of maple syrup.
Pancake, or table, syrup is a highly processed product. The primary ingredient is corn syrup and/or high-fructose corn syrup. Some experts suggest that high-fructose corn syrup may be processed by the body differently than other types of sugar, while others say that there is little difference. You'll also find added coloring, flavoring, and preservatives in pancake syrup. The coloring is often caramel color. Some types of caramel color contain a compound called 4-MEI, a potential carcinogen, and in Consumer Reports tests, we found that some pancake syrups had notable amounts of 4-MEI.
In blind tastings, our panel of professional tasters have detected big flavor differences between pancake syrup and maple syrup. Real maple syrup has a clean, complex maple flavor with hints of caramel, vanilla, and prune. Pancake syrups are singularly sweet with little complexity and noticeable artificial flavors.
There's also some confusion about the differences between maple syrup and maple water, a fairly new option in the beverage aisle. Maple water is the watery sap that's tapped from the tree and boiled down to make maple syrup. It's not water with maple syrup mixed in. It usually has around 5 grams of sugars per 8 ounces, but the amount varies by brand.
Maple syrup does contain more of some nutrients than table sugar—and it is a better choice than pancake syrup—but it certainly isn't a health food. Whether it's an ingredient in a packaged food or poured on pancakes or oatmeal, this syrup counts toward your daily added sugars intake. (These are the sugars that are added to food in processing or cooking, not the sugars that are an intrinsic part of fruit or dairy.) The latest U.S. dietary guidelines put a spotlight on added sugars, and for the first time there is a recommended limit: no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.
If you downed ¼-cup of maple syrup—the amount listed as a serving on the nutrition facts label—you’d get 62 percent of your daily needs for riboflavin, about 9 percent of calcium, 8 percent of zinc, and 5 percent of potassium. But many other foods contain those same nutrients without the high calorie load: That same size serving of maple syrup has about 200 calories and 50 grams of sugars—more than in a 12-ounce can of cola. In fact, each tablespoon has about 50 calories and 12 grams of sugars, so drizzle it on lightly. If your pancakes seem too dry, use chopped or pureed fruit to add sweetness; bananas, berries, or peaches are good options.
Grade B syrup has a darker color and deeper flavor than grade A, but that doesn’t make it inferior. Many people prefer the more intense flavor of grade B. But this confusion may soon be cleared up in the minds of consumers. Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture changed the labeling system for syrup so that it is in line with international standards. Now all maple syrup is grade A, followed by a color/flavor description:
• Grade A Light Amber is now Grade A Golden Color/Delicate Taste
• Grade A Medium Amber is now Grade A Amber Color/Rich Taste
• Grade A Dark Amber is now Grade A Dark Color/Robust Taste
• Grade B is now Grade A Very Dark Color/Strong Taste
Although this change went into effect in March 2015, not all maple syrup producers have switched over, so you may still see the old grades on labels.
Our expert panel of tasters recently evaluated 14 maple syrups—eight dark, five amber, and one golden—both brand names and private label. For the test, the syrups were served in dark red cups so the color differences wouldn’t influence the experts’ evaluations.
What's the best type to serve at breakfast or brunch? It depends on your taste. We found the dark syrups to be more intense and complex than the amber syrups, but both types had clean maple flavors. The differences between the colors were quite noticeable when we tasted the golden, amber, and dark color offerings from one brand, Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value Organic Maple Syrup, side by side. The golden syrup was the most sweet with the mildest flavor. The amber syrup had more maple flavor and the dark syrup was complex with big molasses and intense maple flavors.
Not always. In our tests, Trader Joe’s 100 Percent Vermont Maple Syrup ranked Excellent and was also the least expensive amber syrup. The priciest amber syrup, Maple Grove Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup, received a Very Good Rating.
We found a similar pattern among the dark syrups. The highest-priced syrup, Camp Pure Maple Syrup was judged to be Good while the lowest-priced, Kirkland Signature (Costco) Organic Maple Syrup ranked Very Good.
Once you pour the syrup on your pancakes or waffles, however, the differences between brands may not matter as much. We tasted the highest- and lowest-ranked brands in both color categories on waffles and found that the amber syrups were practically indistinguishable from one another. It was a little easier to tell the dark syrups apart. Our recommendation is to buy syrup by price.
Unlike honey, maple syrup can grow mold so once you open a container you should put it in the refrigerator, where it will last 6 months to a year. An unopened container can be stored in a cool place for up to two years.
Some brands of maple syrup are sold in different-size containers, and the syrup is often less expensive per serving when you buy the largest one. For example, the Maple Grove Farms syrups in our tests cost $2.69 per ¼-cup serving when purchased in an 8 ½ ounce bottle, but came out to $1.19 per serving for a 32-ounce bottle. That’s a lot of syrup, but you can take advantage of the lower price if you store it in the freezer, where it will keep indefinitely (it won’t freeze solid). For the best flavor, bring maple syrup to room temperature or heat it gently before using it.
The health benefits of maple syrup include a healthy heart and a healthier immune system. It also has antioxidant properties that protect our body from free radicals.
There are several natural sweeteners that are preferred instead of the chemically prepared sugar which is common in most houses. There are people who prefer using honey instead of any other natural products of the same type. However, maple syrup is considered to be a better option given its low-calorie count, as compared to honey.
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The use of maple syrup is common and is incorporated into many meals. Therefore, it is considered as a key cooking ingredient in a number of food items. This syrup adds flavor to sausages, ice cream, different types of fritters, and fresh fruit, among others. It can also be used in pancakes as a topping, as well as on French toast and waffles, which are common delicacies in some parts of America and Europe. Due to its flavor and sweetness, it can be used as a sweetener to be used in baked beans, cakes, bread, and granola. Some wine manufacturers also consider using it in the wine-making process instead of honey.
The nutrients found in maple syrup include energy, water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and sugars. In terms of minerals, it contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and zinc. Vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and B6 are also found in maple syrup.
Maple syrup is not only tempting and yummy but is also a hoarder of ample health benefits. Let’s take a look at its beneficial effects on our body.
Maple syrup has various antioxidant properties that are essential for healthy living. Antioxidants are important for the body as they neutralize free radicals, which may cause various health ailments. Mitochondria are one of the cells that are responsible for energy production, but during this process, free radicals are produced within the mitochondria. This function requires enzymes that are prone to damage or harm by other microorganisms in the body. It is the function of manganese present in the maple syrup to supply the superoxide dismutase which is an oxidative enzyme. This enzyme helps in disarming the dangerous free radicals that are produced by the mitochondria when performing its normal metabolic functions.
The health benefits of maple syrup also include giving you a healthier heart. It is one of the body’s organs that is susceptible to different kinds of diseases such as stroke, atherosclerosis, and other cardiovascular conditions. The presence of zinc in the body is one of the best ways that has been proven to protect the heart against such diseases. Maple syrup contains zinc and its consumption may protect and prevent various cardiovascular disorders. Zinc also enhances the performance of the endothelial cells by protecting them against damage due to the existence of excess cholesterol, together with other oxidized lipids. The blood vessels are comprised of different components of the endothelial cells, which form the inner lining of these vessels. A low level of zinc exposes the linings to injuries, which in turn can affect the normal functioning of the heart.
The consumption of maple syrup may also help in maintaining male reproductive health. There are certain minerals, such as zinc, found in maple syrup, that are useful for a healthy reproductive system, particularly the prostate gland. Reduction in the level of the minerals increases the risk of disorders, such as prostate cancer. This is why it is advisable for men to always try to consume foods that contain the right amount of this mineral. Maple syrup is one of such food that is easy to acquire, readily available, and enjoyable as well.
A lack of zinc and manganese minerals could easily lead to a reduction in the number of white blood cells, which affects the response of the immune system. Supplementing these minerals is the only way known to restore their levels to the proper state. Maple syrup is a good source of both zinc and manganese, which play a key role in strengthening the immune system.
The Native Americans are said to have discovered that sap from maple trees could be processed to make maple syrup. Maple syrup is prepared from the sugary sap of the maple tree. The preparation involves a tapping or piercing of tree to obtain this sap. These trees accumulate starch in their roots and trunks, especially in the period that precedes winter. The long accumulation of this starch makes it easy to convert it from the original state to sugar. During the spring season, the sugar rises and mixes with water to form a sap which is ready for collection or harvesting. Since the sap contains a high water ratio, it has to undergo processing for the water to evaporate, leaving behind the concentrated, thick syrup. This final product is arrived at through a heating process. The entire process does not involve any use of chemical additives, preservatives, or agents.
So far, Canada is the largest producer of maple syrup followed by the United States. The major advantage is that one does not necessarily have to reside in these areas in order to buy this syrup. It is stocked in stores all over the world.
Maple syrup is readily available all over the world. Be sure to store the maple syrup in a cool place before opening, and keep it in the refrigerator after opening. Discard it if you see any mold in the syrup.