Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.
Seriously, there are few natural flavorings out there with the punch and complexity of maple syrup. Understand, I’m talking about real maple syrup made from maple sap from maple trees, not pancake syrup made in a factory with corn and chemical flavorings. They are absolutely not interchangeable in recipes. If the label on the product you are holding says it contains anything else but maple syrup, it’s not real maple syrup. Real maple syrup can seem expensive at first glance, but it delivers a wallop of flavor in just a small amount, so a jug or bottle can last a very long time. Do you remember that old TV commercial that shows someone pouring (and pouring, and pouring) “pancake syrup” over a stack of pancakes until they are swimming in it? You simply don’t need that much maple syrup to take advantage of its rich, sweet, smoky flavor.
I am bringing it up because the glaze recipe from last time used maple syrup, and I really didn’t want anyone to mix up the two products.
There are different grades of maple syrup available. They each have their own color and flavor characteristics. I decided to line them up and see for myself. I purchased a grading sampler from Ben’s Sugar Shack, a local syrup producer that has been making maple products since he was a child. I’m not kidding, he was 16 years old when I first discovered his gift, and he had already been at it awhile. Well, he’s a grown young man now, and taking his maple syrup business to the next level, with his products in grocery stores all over the area. There are other maple producers here, but in my opinion, none of them produces maple syrup like Ben.
The sampler contained Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B.
Grade A Light Amber had a light, silky texture with a strong, but fleeting, flavor of maple. Grade A Medium Amber was slightly thicker, and the maple flavor was more pronounced, lasting longer on the tongue. It also had a wee bit of caramel going on. Grade A Dark Amber had about the same texture as the Medium, but an even longer lasting maple/caramel flavor, with the tiniest bit of smokiness. Finally, the Grade B had the thickest texture, and the richest, longest lasting flavors. The maple, caramel, toffee and smoke flavors just roll around and around in your mouth. That’s why it’s the grade I chose for the glaze; it has so much deep flavor to bring to any roasted or grilled meat. We love this grade on pancakes and waffles, too, but we are maple junkies here at the house.
Maple syrup season is over, but because nature’s goodness has been skillfully and lovingly captured in jugs and bottles, we can have it all year long, and maple trees, barring unforseen circumstances like disease and ice storms, live a really long time and can give up sap year after year without ill affect, if managed properly.
Of course now I have all this maple syrup to dispatch…
See you on the Road.