Monday, December 29, 2008

maple syrup

At the grocery store last night I overheard someone talking.  They were looking for Grade B maple syrup and couldn't find it.  They also were wondering what the heck the difference was between Grade A and Grade B.

Having lived in Vermont before and having spent some time in a sugar shack (just tasting mind you, not cooking) I thought I would share a little information about maple syrup.

Maple syrup is made from the sap of the sugar maple tree.  In the spring when weather warms up the sap starts "running", the trees are tapped and the sugar shacks start boiling to create the syrup.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup; the average tree produces about 10 gallons of sap.  Once they start boiling in the sugar shack they don't stop until the sap stops; this can make for some very long days.

There are five grades of maple syrup, Grade A Light Amber is the fancy grade and the one most people use.  Grade A Medium Amber and Grade A Dark Amber are darker, obviously and they have a slightly different taste.  Grade B is even darker and thicker than Grade A Dark Amber and has a more pronounced flavor.  It is more often used for cooking because of the more intense flavor.  The last grade is Grade C, or commercial, which is for flavorings and other commercial uses.

According to Ed, the guy who owned the sugar shack down the way, Vermont maple syrup is better than any other maple syrup because they actually boil it thicker, using more gallons of sap per gallon of finished product, and so it is more flavorful.  

I never learned to drink coffee with maple syrup (which a number of people in Vermont do) but I did get a recipe from my friend Carol for a Maple Oat Pie which is a Vermont specialty.  I've modified the recipe slightly over the years but still call it Carol's Maple Oat Pie and think of her every time I make it (warning, this is not a low calorie food but it sure is good).

Carol's Maple Oat Pie

1 C. sucanat
1 C. butter
3 eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup oatmeal (quick oats)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup crushed walnuts

preheat oven to 325 degrees F
cream together sucanat and butter
add eggs one at a time
add remaining ingredients

pour mixture into unbaked 9" pie shell. 
Bake 325° for 10 min 
reduce heat to 300 and bake another 45 minutes or until set

photo courtesy of

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