Sunday, May 26, 2013

Awesomesauce, aka pure maple syrup

In enjoying my sometimes-treat of pancakes this morning, I wanted to share my appreciation for pure maple syrup with you. 

Yes, it has a bunch of calories (220 per 1/4 cup) and that is pretty much all coming from carbs... But it also has 25% of your day's riboflavin, 15% of your manganese (and really, where else do you get such tasty manganese?), and some calcium, magnesium, and zinc. 

But, you probably won't use a full quarter cup, and as a special treat, nothing beats the real stuff. Yes, I do keep sugar free "pancake" syrup in the house, and it doesn't totally suck... Modern chemistry can closely mimic the viscosity and the overall "maple" flavor, enough to wet a weekday waffle. 

But it does NOT truly compare to the fresh amber nectar we picked up at a local maple farm this spring. We went for a few hours over the Easter holiday weekend, and enjoyed all the typical events: giant pancake-pork-product-baked-goods-and-beans breakfast, demonstration of how syrup is made now and tasting, and a self-guided tour through the woods, showing the history of maple syrup. We learned a bit about how the settlers learned about maple sap from the indigenous folk, how they would set up special camps away from their farms, just for the few weeks the sap flowed (once the trees bud, the sap isn't as sweet and we don't use it at that point). 

Old-school pioneer way of reducing sap to syrup. It's a 40:1 ratio to go from watery to delicious

We had the super-special treat of maple taffy  on snow, and learned about modern sap collection. 

Boiling syrup until thicker is what makes it taffy, then rolling it yourself makes you feel like you did something

A totally worth-it experience, and I recommend it highly for both families and, well, everyone. 

Ok, back to the sticky matter at hand. There are (basically) 3 grades of syrup: light, amber, and dark. These do not relate to cooking or processing, but actually have to do with when in the season the sap is collected. Earlier is watery-er, hence, lighter.   I like amber and dark, though they suggest dark is good for cooking with, I like it as a condiment. 
We found the light to be too light, but your mileage may vary, as they say. 

So, next time you whip up a batch of your Aunt Jemima's best pancakes or waffles (#noshame), do yourself a flavor favor and bust out the good stuff. You're worth it. 

Math: did you catch the 40:1 ratio?  

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