Friday, September 4, 2009

What is the Difference Between Maple Syrup Grades?

A simple search on the Internet with this question brings up some of the most amazing and incorrect answers imaginable. I read articles that told how there were two different processes for making syrup and that the process used for making A syrup stripped it of all of it's nutrients. Someone posted that Grade B contains insect parts and A does not. The advice was all over the map so let's try to make some sense of all this information.

How Does Maple Syrup Get The Grade?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assigns grades to the maple syrup sold in the the U.S. These grades are: Grade A Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. The grading of syrup sold in the United States is voluntary (like USDA Beef Grading).

Grade A syrup is very light in color and has a faint, delicate maple flavor. It is usually made earlier in the season when the weather is colder. Many people use this grade for serving on pancakes. It is also widely used for making maple candies. I use it for pancakes and also for making things like any ice cream that shouldn't have an overpowering maple flavor.

Grade B, sometimes called Cooking Syrup, extremely dark in color and has a stronger maple taste as well as hints of caramel. Because of its strong flavor, this is predominantly used in baked goods.

I have found that small farmers who produce maple syrup stick to the same formula - Light and Medium Amber becomes Grade A and anything below is B. Once the syrup takes on a bitter aftertaste it becomes C. Most farmers though just stop producing at that time because you really have to have a lot of syrup for a large bakery to pick up your Grade C.

How to Use Maple Syrup

In general, maple syrup can be substituted for granular sugar in baked goods by following these rules of thumb: For each cup of granulated sugar, use 1-1/2 cup of maple syrup. Reduce other liquids in the recipe by about one-half. Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of maple syrup. Decrease oven temperature by 25°F.

I hope this has helped to clear up some questions regarding grading. The bottom line for me: I keep both grades on hand and use the A for pancakes and for any cooking where a strong maple flavor would be out of place. For everything else, I use B.

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