Buying and Storing
What is it? Produced mainly in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, maple syrup is the boiled-down sap of maple trees. Though we’re most familiar with it as a topper for waffles and pancakes, it’s not just for breakfast. Unlike cheaper pancake syrups (many of which contain no maple at all), pure maple syrup has a distinctive earthy flavor that is a great complement to many savory foods.
Grades: Maple syrup comes in four USDA grades: Grade A Light Amber (a delicate syrup, graded “Fancy” in Vermont), Grade A Medium Amber (the most common table syrup), Grade A Dark Amber and Grade B. The darker the color, the later in the season the syrup was produced and the stronger the flavor. For cooking, stick to the darker grades, as they will retain their flavor. When eating the syrup straight, choose whichever intensity of maple flavor you prefer.
Buyer’s tip: For the best flavor, check the label to be sure that maple syrup is the only ingredient. Terms like all-natural are basically meaningless.
Keep it fresh: An unopened bottle of maple syrup will last for a year in the pantry. After opening, refrigerate it for up to six months or transfer the syrup to plastic containers and freeze indefinitely (the syrup will get thicker but will return to normal when it warms up).
Did you Know? It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup. And if you keep boiling down maple syrup, you get candy, like sweet maple leaf bites (shaped in molds) from Maple Grove Farms ($8.70 for 10 mini pieces; MapleGrove.com).
Add a sweet hit of maple flavor to a variety of dishes.
In vinaigrette: Whisk together 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp each maple syrup and red wine vinegar, and 1 tsp Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
On roasted vegetables: Roast 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes or carrots, then toss with 2 finely chopped scallions and 1 Tbsp each maple syrup and olive oil.
As a glaze: Whisk together 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 tsp ground cumin and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Use it to baste when broiling fish or chicken breasts or when grilling pork chops, salmon or chicken pieces.
In whipped cream: Using an electric mixer, beat ¾ cup heavy cream and 6 Tbsp maple syrup until soft peaks form.
In soda: For a homemade fizzy soda (tastes a bit like cream soda), stir 2 Tbsp maple syrup into 2 cups club soda and pour over ice.