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Is all Vermont Maple the same

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just short of the sap being boiled off, any huge diff. among various maple farms.
Looking to mailorder some maple syrup from vermont. There is a huge variance in pricing amongst the various farms. ....

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  1. According to this article in Vermont Living there are "four grades of maple syrup as distinguished by the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food, & Markets". So I assume that there should be no discernible difference between the same grades:
    http://www.vtliving.com/maple/grades....

    1. Grade B is the most flavorful, and typically the hardest to get in the US outside of the Northeast.

      Vermont syrup grading comes from a time when syrup was a substitute for sugar (as it long was, for example, for abolitionist folk who avoided molasses and sugar because they were the product of slave labor), so the highest grades were for the most neutral flavor. Nowadays, where the flavor is largely the point, Grade B is for many the most desirable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S

        Here in SoCal Trader Joe's carries Grade B, so I'll bet it's a chain-wide product. Try calling a TJ near you.

      2. Not referring to the grades but moreso amongst the farms/producers....

        1. Having had syrup from several brands/producers I would say yes, though the differences can be subtle, esp. within a certain grade. I've also noticed a connection between pricing and the packaging--cute glass bottles in small amounts are much more expensive proportionately than a big plastic jug.

          It sounds like you might want to ask for mail order reccs. Can't help you there, as I get mine from my farmer's market. Keep in mind that other states and Canada make excellent syrup as well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dct

            You're quite right to point out that many states besides Vermont produce very good maple syrup. Everyone automatically thinks of Vermont as the maple syrup state. Vermont has capitalized on this perception by charging a premium for its syrup. You'll usually pay at least 25% more to order from a Vermont producer than one in other states.

            Not everyone agrees that Vermont trumps the competition for quality. Yankee Magazine did an extensive tastng of maple syrups from all over New England a couple of years ago. They awarded the top five places to producers in New Hampshire, not Vermont. The couple responsible for Fork and Bottle, a well respected gourmet/foodie web site, says that the best maple syrup they have ever tasted comes from a producer in Pennsylvania.

            1. re: cheesemaestro

              If I didn't have such a good source here in Michigan (actually several) I would be curious to try syrups from all over the North. And this year, I am hoping to try to make my own. I carefully noted the maple trees on my mother's property and I'm going to try tapping them. I don't expect to make a lot of syrup, but I've seen a few bucket setups in town and had some made by a friend's neighbor and it was delicious--perhaps not as refined, but that's ok when you love maple like I do.

          2. I've ordered several times from Morse Farm and love their syrup

            http://www.morsefarm.com/

            1. Btw, in terms of production during the season, the lightest syrups tend to dominate the early part of the season (which is often as early as mid-February in recent years, thanks to climate change), and the darker syrups the end of the season. From the MA maple producer FAQ:

              "Maple producers have no control over which grade they make. As a rule of thumb, lighter syrup is made earlier in the season, and darker syrup is made later. But since we are dealing with Mother Nature in our business, anything can happen. Producers have seen years where 95% of the annual crop was light amber syrup, and some years yield almost no light syrup at all, when most of the crop is dark syrup. During the six-week maple production season, the weather goes from cold to warm as spring pushes aside the cold of winter. Additionally, the trees themselves undergo metabolic and chemical changes as they go from winter dormancy to springtime activity. The tree buds start to form towards the end of the sugaring season, about a month before they open up into small leaves. These changes cause differences in maple syrup flavor as the season progresses. "

              1. 75% of all maple syrup is produced in Quebec. As I would never buy any product from the people's republic of Vermont I purchase my maple syrup in cans from this website:
                http://www.maplesyrupstore.com/frame_...
                I suggest the medium grade if you like a full maple flavor.

                Enjoy.

                3 Replies
                1. re: CDouglas

                  I received 10 cans of maple syrup from Quebec. I left them on the shelf in the basement, and found that all 10 cans expanded. When I opened one, there was a hissing sound as if air was released. Does anyone know if it's safe to eat? The cans say refrigerate after opening. It is my understanding that in general, storing fresh items in a high percentage of sugar protects against spoilage. Should I assume that this is o.k.?

                  1. re: CDouglas

                    $18 US a can? What a rip-off! You shouldn't be paying more than $10 CAN for a can of maple syrup.

                    http://www.quebecweb.com/boisjoli/

                    1. re: CDouglas

                      Vermont syrup is the world standard, everybody knows this, Vermont grade A Fancy is the top of the line , lightest and most flavorful, and every Vermont sugarmaker knows this.
                      The biggest joke around is for foreiners to come looking for the dark stuff because it's " less refined and more flavorfull. " It's dark because it's full of debris and dead stuff, and the strong flavor is what is known as buddiness, which comes at the end of the season when the maple flavor is gone.

                    2. Not just for Vermont, but in general for maple syrup, there area number of factors that lead to flavor variability. Maple syrup production is subject to some of the same factors as wine production, but with the flavor variation being subtler and harder to taste.
                      To start with, syrup can be made from a few different species of maple tree, with the sugar maple accounting for most maple syrup production. I prefer syrup that has been made with at least some black maple sap as well. I've never found a farm that uses only black maples or makes a purely black maple syrup, but I do find that farms with a greater number of black maples produce a fuller tasting syrup. Many farms won't even tap any other kind of maple, as the sap is lower in sugar, but red maples and silver maples are used. Syrups from these have more flavor and less sugar, to the point where syrup that uses too much of either can have a sort of turpentine flavor to some people. The bigtooth maple does not occur in Vermont, but in the Northwest there are farms making syrup from it. I'm not really sure what that syrup tastes like, but I have to imagine it is different. There are multiple cultivars of each species, but I don't know that there is any discernible flavor difference between them.
                      Elevation and soil play a role. Higher elevations typically have cleaner groundwater and dryer, rockier soil. Syrups from higher elevations are crisper, cleaner tasting. Lower elevations, which you don't get a whole lot of in Vermont, particularly those is swampy or boggy soil, produce a muddier, more muted syrup. There are also more minerally syrups, but I'm not sure what factor produces these.
                      Climate is another factor, which elevation does play a role in. Vermont is over 150 miles from bottom to top, and it's quite a bit colder in the north than in the south. This difference is even more pronounced from, say, southern Connecticut to central Quebec. The greater the number of hours in a day with below freezing temperatures, the more water the tree takes in, and the lighter the syrup will be. More hours above freezing means more hours where the tree is weeping sap rather than drinking water - but more hours weeping does not equal a greater volume of sap - and therefore a darker syrup. The farther you get from freezing, the more pronounced the effects are, therefore increasing the chance of off flavors developing. A day with a low of 10 degrees F and a high of 34 degrees F with only two hours above freezing is not great, and neither is a day with a low of 30 and a high of 50 with only four hours below freezing. A balance is good, like a low of 25 and high of 40 with 12 hours above and 12 below freezing. The temperature range affects the flavor, with a low of 20 and high of 50 tasting different than a low of 30 and high of 35. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but they are different. I find I like syrups from areas with a greater daily swing in temperature more. A lot of this climate related stuff is covered by the grading system, but it also creates differences not covered in this system.
                      Finally, there's the human element. How good is this farm at reducing the sap to syrup? And what methods do they use? Some people overcook their syrup, or cook it too hot. Some employ reverse osmosis, which makes it taste less cook - sometimes a little too raw for my tastes. Different styles of evaporator with different heat sources are employed. The old fashioned wood fired evaporators usually lend just a hint of smokiness.
                      So, yes, there is variation. If you buy ten syrups from ten different farms, you'll be able to taste a difference. Unless two of them are right next to each other and tap the same proportions of different maples and have identical reduction methods. Those two will probably not be different enough to detect any flavor variation. Your best bet is to try a few different farms and settle on your favorite.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        Great report, danieljdwyer. We have an annual maple tasting and competition here in Peterborough, NH. The winners a couple of years ago was a class of elementary school students whose teacher believed their syrup won because the sap was collected the old fashioned way in buckets rather than by the plastic piping that sugerbush tappers universally use these days. The students beat out large commercial producers as well as artisan maple farms.

                        1. re: susanl143

                          Absolutely true, Sue. Sugarmakers and everyone involved in the industry admit amoung themselves that the syrup being produced by plastic tubing is far inferior to the syrup of old, but this is not something they are eager for the public know.
                          The reason for the degradation is that the sap heats up and begins to ferment on its long and slow journey to the sugarhouse. while the sap collected in buckets is kept cool. People using tubing are forced to use very strong and toxic chemicals to control the mold in their lines, and this dead mold enters into the sap flow.
                          The only advantage of using tubing is that it lowers the cost of production. The time will come when people will understand this, and will be happy to pay a premium for syrup made from sap collected in buckets.

                      2. Up here north of the border we have several very distinct production zones - each of which has its own particular terroir. To put things into perspective: In Canada, maple syrup is produced in areas of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. These four provinces and 14 of the northeastern United States located as far west as Minnesota produce maple syrup for commercial use. Canada produces about 80% of the world's supply of maple syrup and the United States about 20%. Vermont make (about) 3.5 million litres a year, Ontario - about two or three times that. Both are dwarfed by the amount produced in Quebec; last year they 'officially' made nearly 30 million litres of the stuff and they have about 15 million litres in reserve (4 times Vermont's total annual production) My point with the numbers and volumes is: there is a lot of maple syrup out there and the less specific the label - the more generic the flavour. Product of Canada likely means that you are getting Quebec blended syrup, similar say to european French table wine. An excellent comparison can be drawn between wine and maple syrup - the more sight specific - the more terroir will show through. Mineral content and soil composition play a huge part in the flavour as does altitude and latitude, aspect to the sun, drainage etc. In Ontario, where I am, syrup from along the Niagara Escarpment (limestone) has a totally different taste compared with say the Ottawa Valley (alluvial glacial till) or syrup produced in Algonquin Park on the Canadian shield (granite). Production can maintain or change the the flavour profile of the syrup - long cooler evaporation maintains more flavour and fruitiness in the syrup - fast and hot 'cooks' the syrup and imparts caramel flavours. The time the sap comes off the tree really makes a difference as well - new syrup tends to be lighter, while late is darker and more mineral laden. Most units are stainless steel now - but you might run into a cast iron heater at older operations - that imparts a particular flavour to the syrup as well. We usually 'collect' maple syrup directly from farms and sugar shacks that produce it and we take a stab at making our own every year. Some of the best syrup, in my opinion, is produced by the Mennonite community in and around the Elmira area of south-western Ontario. If you ever have the chance to taste maple syrup that has been boiled off over an open fire - do it! It's rustic, smoky and primitive tasting. The Kortright Conservation Centre north of Toronto has an interactive maple syrup interpretative trail in the spring where they usually set up two or three cast iron kettles over open fire. There are similar events and fairs all over the northeast - check one out.

                        The specific gravity of commercial maple syrup will prevent it from freezing - so store it in the freezer until you crack the seal - then keep it in the fridge.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Captain Maplesyrup

                          Captain, you seem to know so much about Maple Syrup from Canada. Can you answer my question?

                          I received 10 cans of maple syrup from Quebec. I left them on the shelf in the basement, and found that all 10 cans expanded. When I opened one, there was a hissing sound as if air was released. Does anyone know if it's safe to eat? The cans say refrigerate after opening. It is my understanding that in general, storing fresh items in a high percentage of sugar protects against spoilage. Should I assume that this is o.k.?

                          1. re: jwg

                            search on the internet, some maple syrup site should be able to help you. We always had large cans growing up that we stored in our basement. If it gets mold on it, I know you can just scrape it off and boil it and its fine,

                            check some of these sites
                            http://www.google.com/search?client=f...

                            1. re: jwg

                              Maple syrup does not spoil easily, but it can spoil under certain conditions of time or temperature abuse or improper storage. The usual problem is mold appearing on the surface. This is NOT spoilage, and, as LisaN says, removing the mold and boiling the syrup to retard new mold growth is the solution.

                              Maple syrup producers say that a never opened, properly sealed container has a shelf life of about a year sitting unrefrigerated in storage. Once the container is opened, the syrup should be put in the refrigerator, where it will last for a year before the flavor begins to deteriorate. For longer term storage, maple syrup may be frozen.

                              What concerns me about your situation is that the cans have expanded. By this, do you mean that the cans are bulging? If so, you don't want to eat the syrup, not even a little bit. Bulging means that bacteria have multiplied and produced gases. The hissing sound you heard when you opened the cans may well be the gas escaping, Also, botulism spores in maple syrup are extremely rare, but not unheard of. You don't want to fool around with that.

                              Possible causes: The cans were not properly sealed originally or were later opened and then stored without refrigeration. The syrup was somehow contaminated by the producer. The containers were not properly sterilized. The containers were not completely filled, leaving a layer of air at the top.

                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                thank you. That's just what I was worried about. I hate to throw out 10 cans, but I guess I will.

                          2. Slightly off topic. We began using maple syrup instead of honey on the assumption that, because it is extracted from deeper rooted trees (rather than flowers), it was probably more nutritious in trace minerals. Can anyone enlighten us on the nutrition factor?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: condie

                              Maple syrup is an good source of zinc, and a dencent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and selenium: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp...
                              Honey is not an especially good source of any mineral, but contains trace amounts of celcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, manganese, and zinc: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp...
                              Maple syrup is, generally, a better source of minerals. Honey does have other nutritional benefits, however. As sweeteners go, they're both pretty healthy.

                              1. re: danieljdwyer

                                Sugar in any form, of course, is sugar. It is not a good idea to consume large quantities of any of it. I was thinking more of the trace minerals that likely come from deeper in the ground.
                                We have developed a liking for the maple sugar for most of our sweetening needs.
                                Thanks for the info.