Maple Syrup Grades
From the website of Deep Mountain Maple
maple facts and fictions
Especially see last paragraph
There is one question that I am sure we have been asked more than any other in our 26 years at the Greenmarket. What is the difference between lighter-colored and darker-colored maple syrups? Though all grades of pure maple syrup are identical in density and maple Sugar content (66.9%), the color of the syrup can and does range from pale golden to dark brown. In fact, maple syrup is graded solely by its color. This difference in color has mostly to do with when the syrup is made. As the spring warms up, the sap coming from the trees becomes darker in color, producing a darker syrup. Corresponding to color, the darker the syrup is, the stronger its flavor. The State of Vermont distinguishes four maple syrup grades. From light to dark they are: Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. It is important to understand that ALL maple syrup is produced by exactly the same process.
Generally, the first syrup we make in a given season is very clear and light in color, like ginger ale. This syrup is graded Vermont Fancy. It has a subtle but complex flavor, with hints of vanilla from the vanillins that are naturally present in maple sap. Our Fancy grade is an excellent, sophisticated table syrup, delicious with pancakes, waffles and French toast. It is also fantastic on ice cream or fresh fruit.
Grade A Medium Amber is a shade darker than Fancy. It is still a light, aromatic syrup, but it has a slightly more pronounced maple flavor. this, along with Grade A Dark Amber, is the traditional “pancake maple syrup.”
Grade A Dark Amber is produced toward the end of the season as the weather warms up. It has a robust maple flavor and is great in yogurt and oatmeal. It is also a good choice for baking. If you’re looking for that very hearty, “traditional” maple flavor, you probably want Dark Amber.
Grade B maple syrup is usually made at the end of the sugaring season, just before the maple trees bud. Almost as dark as molasses, the very strong, intense flavor of Grade B has been described as “hard–core.” Traditionally considered a cooking–grade syrup, Grade B has gained popularity in recent years as a table syrup. It is also well known for its beneficial use in a cleansing fast known as the Master Cleanse.
Although we are very happy that Stanley Burroughs, the author of The Master Cleanse, recognized the health benefits of pure maple syrup, we are disappointed that Mr. Burroughs did not really understand how maple syrup is made. He recommended Grade B syrup because he assumed, probably due to its dark color and intense flavor, that it was less refined than other maple syrups. However, NO pure maple syrup is refined in any way whatsoever. ALL pure maple syrup contains many beneficial nutrients, including minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. Traditionally, maple syrup is considered to be good for digestion and the circulatory system. It has fewer calories most other sweeteners and contains no fat at all.
At the Greenmarket, people often ask us which grade is best. The answer is, whichever one you like best!