Table of Contents
- Top Regions Producers of Maple Syrup
- The 10 Best Pure Maple Syrups
- Maple and Pancake Syrup Taste Test
- What Is the Difference Between Maple Syrup and Pancake Syrup?
- Maple syrup
- Barley malt syrup
- MapleSyrupWorld About Us
- The Maple Guys Pure NH
- Hilltop Boilers Pure Maine
- Maple Grove Farms Pure Maple
- Dutch Gold McLure’s
- Infused Vermont Maple Syrup
- Canadian Finest
- Kirkland Signature
- Camp 100% Pure
- Brown Family Farm
- Uncle Luke’s
- Coombs Family Farms Pure Organic
- Highland Sugarworks
- Trader Joe’s
- Bushwick Kitchen Trees Knees Maple Madness
- How It’s Made
- Grading the Sweet Sap
- A One-of-a-Kind Ingredient You Need to Have
Top Regions Producers of Maple Syrup
Which region is the golden paradise of maple syrup? Did you know that maple syrup is an entirely North America product?
Maple syrup is made from sap collected from maple trees during the early spring. Not all kind of maple trees can be harvested and the climate needs to be specific. The sugar maple is the preferred kind of maple tree. Its sap has a high sugar content of approximately 2%. The black maple, red maple, silver maple and the ash leafed maple trees can also be tapped but their sugar content is about 1% sugar.
Cold freezing night and warm days are required for the sap to flow properly from the trees. This peculiar climate is only found in the northern states and provinces of North America on the East coast.
You gotta love your maple syrup!
Top States/Provinces Producer of Maple Syrup
Province of Quebec, Canada: 7, 989,000 gallons harvested.
State of Vermont, USA: 890,000 gallons harvested.
Province of Ontario, Canada: 400,000 gallons harvested. *
State of New York, USA: 312,000 gallons harvested.
State of Maine, USA: 310,000 gallons harvested.
Province of New Brunswick, Canada: 300,000 gallons harvested.*
State of Wisconsin, USA: 117,000 gallons harvested.
State of New Hampshire, USA: 87,000 gallons harvested.
State of Michigan, USA: 82, 000 gallons harvested.
State of Ohio, USA: 65,000 gallons harvested.
State of Pennsylvania, USA: 54,000 gallons harvested.
State of Massachusetts, USA: 29,000 gallons harvested.
Province of Nova Scotia, Canada: 22, 000 gallons harvested. *
State of Connecticut, USA: 9,000 gallons harvested.
*The data for Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were not out for 2010 when we published this article and were extrapolated from previous year. They are an approximation for 2010.
Pancake syrups proliferated, redefining themselves as thoroughly modern improvements on an outdated favorite. Brands like Log Cabin, which began in 1887 as an adulterated maple syrup, pitched themselves to progressive consumers by stressing the science and research that had gone into their production. “Towle’s Log Cabin Syrup has all the delicious, delicate flavor of old time Vermont Maple Syrup, but improved — made more mild, mellower, smoother, sweeter,” boasted one ad. Another explained that “the Towle process scientifically refines and clarifies the Sugar of Maple … blended with the Sugar of Cane.” The big boom came after the Second World War, with the introduction of brands backed with corporate heft, like Quaker Oats’ Aunt Jemima and Unilever’s Mrs. Butterworth, and which included only trace amounts of actual maple syrup. The old Jeffersonian dream of the maple replacing the sugar cane had been reversed; the sugary syrups now threatened to push the maple off of American shelves.
Production declined steadily from the beginning of the century into the 1970s. Then it began to level off, and in recent decades, rebound. Technological advances increased the efficiency of production. Small producers boosted their efforts to market their wares directly to consumers, instead of selling to industrial-scale operations. And many others felt the call back to the land, inspired in part by Helen and Scott Nearing’s Maple Sugar Book, equal parts manual and manifesto.
For most contemporary producers, sugaring is still a seasonal sideline, a way to earn a little cash. But it also fills a crucial cultural role, drawing together families, connecting them to their past, and affirming their rural identity. As an ode and an explanation, Noel Perrin’s Amateur Sugar Maker remains unsurpassed. Sugaring, Perrin observed, “is not really a commercial operation. It is that happiest of combinations, a commercial affair which is also an annual rite, even an act of love.”
Today, maple producers emphasize that authenticity. The catalog for my favorite brand sports a photo of two draft horses in front of a wooden sugar shack, steam billowing up through its roof. The syrup itself is actually produced in a corrugated-steel warehouse in a Vermont office park, but it is the raw and rural that sells.
And, as a result, grade inflation has come to the world of maple syrup. The industry has proposed that all syrup sold at retail be relabeled Grade A, and then sorted into four colors: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. No longer will the weakest syrup be assigned a higher mark for approaching the perfect purity of utter blandness, or the most intensely flavorful syrup get graded down for daring to taste like maple.
The new system, the leading trade group explains, will eliminate “the current discrimination against darker syrup.” By 2013, the new international standard should be fully adopted, and consumers given the clear choice of syrups with as much, or as little, flavor as they desire. So if you happen to relish the taste of maple syrup, you may want to find a bottle of Grade B while you still can. Once the inferior grade is removed from the label, the rarest, most flavorful syrup will likely command at least as dear a price as its blander and more abundant cousins.
Americans today embrace the distinctive legacies of our particular origins, no longer seeking to refine ourselves into bland conformity. Our syrup bottles are finally catching up.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]
Yoni Appelbaum is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Ideas section. Connect Facebook Twitter
The 10 Best Pure Maple Syrups
Why Choose Pure Maple Syrup
They run the gamut from golden and amber to dark and very dark, and each type boasts its own complexities and flavor notes.
Growing up, I used Mrs. Butterworth’s to fill every square of my Eggo waffles and utterly drown my pancakes with religious zeal. My young taste buds never noticed a lack of complexity in the warm, sticky sauce that poured out of those lady-shaped bottles — they were simply thrilled to experience something sweet. It would be many years before I realized I wasn’t actually ingesting true maple syrup. I was eating table syrup, which is a far cry from the genuine stuff.
If you take a look at the back of a bottle of Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, or my coveted Mrs. Butterworth’s, you’ll notice a litany of ingredients. These products consist of corn syrup, are full of preservatives and emulsifiers, and are artificially flavored and colored. On the other hand, pure maple syrup is simply maple tree sap that has been boiled to create a thick, concentrated solution with nothing else added. This makes it ideal for families that want to avoid chemicals and additives.
It also retains plenty of its natural vitamins and minerals — you’ll find everything from calcium and iron to vitamins B6 and C. Of course, syrup is by no means a health food, but it can serve as an excellent substitution for processed sugar in baking, a light topping for ice cream, and a sweetener in your morning coffee. On top of all that, it tends to have a lower calorie count than honey.
Taste is another element to consider when choosing your syrup. They run the gamut from golden and amber to dark and very dark, and each type boasts its own complexities and flavor notes. For example, golden and amber varieties tend to have a buttery essence and are excellent drizzled over foods, whereas darker selections are ideal for baking or adding an earthy sweetness to home-brewed beer.
Depending on the company you purchase from, the manufacture of pure maple syrup can be better for the environment than that of its mass-produced cousins. Many producers tend to be family-owned and operated and take great care to keep their trees healthy by not over-tapping them. Plenty are also certified organic and therefore never use pesticides. In Canada, where sugarmakers account for about 70 percent of global syrup production, there are laws in place to protect forests from being cut down. These thriving woodlands promote better air quality and provide a home for all sorts of plants, critters, and micro-organisms.
How Pure Maple Syrup Is Made
Sugarmakers produce maple syrup much the same way they did hundreds of years ago. While modern manufacturers have access to technology in the vein of reverse osmosis filters and elaborate tubing systems, the principles behind production remain relatively unchanged. It happens in three steps: the tapping of the tree, the sugaring process, and bottling.
Sugarmakers produce maple syrup much the same way they did hundreds of years ago.
The three most popular trees used to collect sap are the sugar maple, the red maple, and the black maple. During the summer months, their leaves produce simple sugar through photosynthesis. As temperatures drop, the sugar makes its way down the trunk, where it’s stored in the roots as starch. Around March, warmer conditions encourage the starch to convert back into sugar, and in the process, the tree pulls groundwater into the mix. This results in sweet, clear sap.
To access it, the sugarmaker will drill a small hole into the trunk. He’ll then either place a spile into it or hook it up to a vacuum tube. If the drip method is used, he’ll place a bucket beneath the spout to catch the liquid as it comes out. This process takes place around March and April, when temperatures consistently reach freezing at night and around 45 degrees during the day, a pattern that helps to coax the sap out easily.
Because the sap from a sugar maple consists of about 98 percent water, it requires dozens of gallons in order to produce just one gallon of concentrated syrup. To do this, the sap is boiled until most of the water evaporates, leaving behind a thick concentrate. Once it has reached the proper consistency, it’s filtered and graded before being packed into bottles and shipped out.
A Brief History Of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup originated in North America hundreds of years ago. How the Native Americans who roamed modern-day Canada and the upper eastern portions of the United States discovered they could boil sap and reduce it to syrup remains unknown. It was most likely a happy accident, and there are multiple legends that attribute what may have happened to different tribes. What we do know for certain is that indigenous people had it all figured out by the time the Europeans came colonizing.
Over the years, producers innovated new ways to streamline what was a very labor-intensive process.
Indigenous methods for harvesting sap included making a V-shaped cut in tree bark and placing a wedge at the bottom. A basket would be left underneath to collect the dripping liquid over the course of a few days. Early Europeans mimicked this general process but instead used augers to drill holes that would accommodate wooden spouts. These settlers would then haul the collected sap back to camp for boiling. To make life easier, they eventually built small cabins known as sugar shacks to serve as more convenient, on-site production facilities.
This continued throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, as maple sugar was in demand as a substitute for expensive imported sweeteners. After the 1850s, cane sugar became readily available and thus immensely popular. In response to this new trend, manufacturers began concentrating on marketing maple syrup over its other forms.
Over the years, producers innovated new ways to streamline what was a very labor-intensive process. Evaporators and tractors helped to speed things up, and eventually, reverse osmosis machines and elaborate tubing systems that use vacuum pumps came on the scene.
Pure maple syrup has become an integral part of North American culture. Since its inception, it has developed into an extremely versatile food that’s consumed all over the world. As demand continues to increase due to evolving consumer tastes, it’s safe to say the industry will continue to thrive.
Maple and Pancake Syrup Taste Test
A special breakfast simply isn’t complete without a stack of pancakes or a crisp, fluffy waffle dripping with maple syrup. But with so many brands and variations on the market, how do you choose?
To get a handle on the sticky stuff, we scoured the market for nationally available products and divided our findings into two categories: maple syrup and pancake syrup. For syrup purists, the real maple variety, tapped from sugar maples in New England and Canada and boiled down into syrup, represents liquid gold. Maple syrups are graded by color—darker syrups have a stronger maple flavor—so we confined our test to the most commonly available type: Grade A Dark Amber, which is the darkest of the Grade A syrups. (We recommend Grade B, which is even darker, for baking.) Just as committed as the maple syrup mavens are the pancake syrup lovers, who prefer the more substantial texture and sweeter taste of these maple-flavored products, typically made with corn syrup and caramel color.
Having identified 13 syrups to taste (8 maple and 5 pancake), we set out to find a top contender in each category with a strong maple flavor, good consistency, and an authentic amber hue. Though a few fell flat, we tasted some seriously good syrup.
Pure Maple Syrup: Best Overall
Camp ($8.59 for 8.5 ounces)
Pros: Tasters’ comments on the flavor ranged from “authentic” to “assertive” to just plain “great.” Another advantage: a “good thickness for real maple syrup,” noted one judge—not as thin as some other pure maple syrups.
Cons: Not sweet enough, some thought.
Pure Maple Syrup: First Runner-Up
Kirkland ($12.99 for 33.8 ounces)
Pros: Most judges commended this pick for its balance of sweetness and maple flavor. An appealing consistency elicited favorable feedback, too. “Not too thick and not too thin,” summed up one taster. In addition, Kirkland is an economical choice, with the lowest per-ounce price of the pure maple syrups we tested.
Cons: Sold only at Costco and online.
Pure Maple Syrup: Second Runner-Up
Trader Joe’s ($16.99 for 32 ounces)
Pros: The dark color and thick texture of this syrup impressed the tasters. “It adhered to the waffle’s surface nicely,” one observed.
Cons: An odd aftertaste.
Pancake Syrup: Best Overall
Cons: A bit too thick, some felt.
Pancake Syrup: First Runner-Up
Trader Joe’s Short Stack Pancake Syrup ($2.49 for 12 ounces)
Pros: The judges liked the amber, almost reddish, color and strong maple flavor of this syrup: “Deep-dark caramel, looks pretty!”
Cons: This one is very sweet, so it’s best to avoid pairing it with anything too sugary.
Pancake Syrup: Second Runner-Up
Log Cabin ($3.69 for 24 ounces)
Pros: The “slightly fruity and nutty” flavor was a hit, as was its “nice dark, golden brown color.”
Cons: The rather thin consistency and artificial maple flavor.
The Other Contenders
Of the pure maple syrups tasted, most testers found Whole Foods 365 on the thin side, but its flavor unobtrusive in a good way. Spring Tree got favorable ratings in flavor but fell down in texture: “For this concentration of maple flavor, you’d expect the syrup to be more robust,” noted one judge. Both McClure’s and Maple Grove Farms were faulted for being a bit too sweet. Maple Gold lacked maple flavor and had an odd aftertaste.
Among the pancake syrups tried, many tasters noted that Aunt Jemima has a very buttery flavor that reminded them of childhood. But overall, it was judged too sweet, with a bit of a chemical aftertaste. Hungry Jack, though enjoyably mild in flavor, was ultimately found to be lackluster.
Additional Taste Test Details
All 13 types of maple and pancake syrup evaluated are available nationwide in supermarkets or online. The maple syrups, listed from highest to lowest score achieved, are: Camp, Kirkland, Trader Joe’s 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, Spring Tree, Whole Foods 365, Maple Grove Farms, McLure’s, Maple Gold. The pancake syrups, listed from highest to lowest score achieved, are: Mrs. Butterworth’s, Trader Joe’s Short Stack Pancake Syrup, Log Cabin, Aunt Jemima, Hungry Jack.
Methodology: In a blind taste test, judges compared the flavor, consistency, and appearance of 13 types of maple and pancake syrup. The syrups were tasted with plain frozen waffles prepared in a toaster. Results were ranked using the Epicurious four-fork rating system (four being best).
Photo: Lew Robertson
Prices and availability subject to change.
See more Epicurious taste tests and recipes:
- The Best Frozen Waffles ›
- The Best Vanilla Ice Cream ›
- Waffle Recipes ›
- Indulgent Breakfast Recipes ›
What Is the Difference Between Maple Syrup and Pancake Syrup?
All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.
Breakfast can spark many questions (like “Sunny side up or scrambled?”), but “What is the difference between maple syrup and pancake syrup?” may be one of the most important, and high-fructose corn syrup is only part of the answer.
I grew up in a pancakes-and-syrup household; not a pancakes-and-syrup-and-butter household, nor a pancakes-and-butter one. Even though a Clipart plate of pancakes always includes a pat of butter, I was happy with my syrup-only stacks. I had no idea, however, that not all syrups were the same. Syrup was syrup—nothing more to investigate! But, if you grew up in a pancake syrup household, as I later learned I did, then you might remember that earth-shattering first taste of real maple syrup.
Because, it’s true: Pancake syrup is not the same as maple syrup. Or, rather, maple syrup is a syrup for pancakes (and waffles), but labeling a product as “pancake syrup” means it is not made of the same stuff as its maple counterpart. That first time I tried real maple syrup, it was sweet, of course, but it had a lot more going on! The maple flavor is a little toasty, maybe floral, and is truly best described by its own name, “maple,” since it’s so unique. After that initial taste of maple syrup, I couldn’t go back—it was too delicious, and too natural.
I’m a sucker for natural, whether or not it’s actually better according to science. I just like the folksy feeling of things coming from nature. So, when I learned about the maple syrup-making process (also known as sugaring), I was hooked.
Deep Mountain Maple describes how sap is tapped from their Vermont maple trees and then boiled to make maple syrup. Maple syrup comes straight from trees. This is verified by reading the ingredients labels for maple syrup. Take a look at this 365 Organic Maple Syrup, or this Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup, and notice what the ingredients say: “Organic Maple Syrup” and “Pure Maple Syrup.” There is literally nothing else in that bottle.
For pancake syrup, however, the number one ingredient is usually corn syrup, followed by high-fructose corn syrup. This is true for both Hungry Jack and Aunt Jemima, with the order of ingredients switched for Mrs. Butterworth’s. Log Cabin touts that they are “the only national brand of table syrup” made without high-fructose corn syrup—though the first ingredient listed in the original variety is still, in fact, regular corn syrup, with sugar following soon after.
Which is better for you?
Nutrition-wise (and specifically, nutritional label-wise), you might be surprised to learn that maple syrup is objectively “sweeter,” at least in terms of grams of sugar. Below is the labeled amount of sugar for 60 milliliters of each type of syrup:
- Butternut Mountain Farm, Grade A Maple Syrup, Amber Color – 53 grams
- 365 Everyday Value, Organic Grade A Maple Syrup, Dark Color – 53 grams
- Mrs. Butterworth’s Original – 47 grams
- Hungry Jack Original – 40 grams
- Aunt Jemima Original – 32 grams
- Log Cabin Original – 26 grams
Log Cabin Original contains the least amount of sugar, with water listed as its second ingredient; conversely, the undiluted maple syrups have the most sugar content. But it’s not refined sugar, so it’s considered a lesser evil by most health-conscious folks, and maple syrup also contains nutrients and minerals like potassium and iron (small amounts, sure, but more than pancake syrup).
If you like to use maple syrup not just on pancakes and French toast, but as a natural sweetener in drinks, desserts, and other dishes, you might like to know that it has fewer calories and carbs than honey (and is also vegan, if that matters to you).
Butternut Mountain 100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup Grade A Amber, $14.19 on Amazon
This 100% pue Vermont maple syrup has a rich flavor perfect for so much more than just pancakes.
What’s up with different grades of maple syrup?
Finally, while pancake syrup comes in varieties like “Original,” “Lite,” “Sugar-free,” or labeled as butter-flavored or fruit-flavored, maple syrup is meticulously graded, using a newer grading system (so no more Grade B syrup—that’s now known as Grade A Dark, Robust). According to Butternut Mountain Farm, this new method of categorizing maple syrup went into effect in 2014 for Vermont, and 2015 for the rest of the U.S. Based on color and flavor, they are:
- Grade A Golden, Delicate
- Grade A Amber, Rich
- Grade A Dark, Robust
- Grade A Very Dark, Strong
- Processing Grade (for food products, not retail)
Maple Source has a guide for how the old grade system translates to the new, in case mapping historical maple syrup types to current-day grades is your thing (or you just need help at the grocery store).
Related Reading: How to Make Infused Maple Syrup
It’s all sweet, it’s all syrup, and it’s generally all some type of golden brown. Really, it comes down to taste preference, and perhaps some folksy or scientific beliefs about nature and/or corn-derived sugars. As for me, I’ll stick to my newfound love of maple syrup, because I want to feel like both a fancy lady and a hippie lady, and this is the syrup that helps me achieve these personas.
Related Video: How to Make Maple Ice Cream
Header image by Chowhound, using photos from and Mrs. Butterworth’s/Facebook.
Syrups are essential for sweetening and enhancing the flavor of the pancakes, but we all know that too much sugar isn’t good for anybody’s health. Plus, people already consume plenty of sugar from a lot of everyday foods and drinks. If pancakes and waffles are a staple in your household, it’s only wise to invest in healthy syrups. These are some of the healthy syrup options you can find:
Real maple syrup comes from the sap from maple trees, whose starch is converted to sugar, creating a sweet sap. Then, that sap is boiled down to make syrup. As the sap is boiled down, the amount of syrup produced from the sap is significantly less in volume. On average, for every 40 gallons of sap, only one gallon of syrup is produced. This is why maple syrup can be pricey.
But splurging for bottles of real maple syrup bottles is worth it because of the antioxidant benefits it provides. Pure maple syrup can contain up to 24 different antioxidants that can cleanse your body and free it from any radical damage that might cause inflammation and chronic diseases. Maple syrup is also rich in zinc and manganese, as well as calcium and potassium.
Remember, not all maple syrups are the same. And also, it must not be confused with anything labeled as “pancake syrup” or “breakfast syrup” as these are not made from maple sap at all. These are made from high fructose corn syrup, flavored with an aromatic compound to imitate the flavor of maple syrup. Pure maple syrups are graded by the USDA.
Maple syrups in the United States are labeled with two major grades: Grade A and Grade B. Grade A is the premier type of maple syrup meant for eating and has four subcategories: Golden, Amber, and Dark. For baked goods like pancakes and waffles, the best syrup for a subtle flavor is golden, amber and dark color. Some of the Grade A products will have a label that states “Previously Grade B,” to help consumers transition to the new labeling guidelines (because before, Dark syrups are used to be graded B). Meanwhile, the Very Dark maple syrup variety is labeled as Grade B, and those are mostly used for baking and creating raw desserts.
Honey is a naturally-made syrup that comes from bees. Bees produce honey by gathering nectar from plants and stores it in their “pollen basket” (a structure behind their legs). When the bees return to the hive, it passes the nectar to another by regurgitating it into another bee’s mouth. This process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is deposited into the honeycomb. Then, bees fan the honeycomb with their wings to make water evaporate from the honey. It is then preserved by the secretion of liquid from the bees’ abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. The taste, aroma, and texture of honey depend on the type of flowers the bees frequent.
When it comes to honey variety, there are over 300 flavors of honey in the United States. Generally, milder-tasting honey is light colored, while the stronger flavors belong to dark-colored honey. But not all honey that you can find in the supermarket is the “real thing.” Actually, 75% of them aren’t real honey, and some are even filtered to have the pollen removed. Some are mixed with high-fructose corn syrup. When looking for pure honey, it must be raw. And it’s best to shop for honey at a farmer’s market, natural foods shop, or a local co-op of businessmen who have or are producing products from bee farms.
Raw honey contains antioxidants, as well as other nutrition properties not present in sugar, like iron, phosphorus, protein, potassium, vitamin C, sodium and zinc, among others. It also does not contain any fats or cholesterols.
After cane sugar crystals and sugar beets have gone through the refining process and no sugar can be crystallized anymore, the leftovers product is molasses. Also known as black treacle, molasses is a thick, viscous product that is a known healthy alternative sweetener.
Molasses contain essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, iron, sodium, cobalt, chromium; as well as vitamins such as vitamin B6, B3, riboflavin, and thiamine. In addition to that, it’s a good source of carbohydrate and is low in both fat and fiber.
Molasses are available in different types, such as blackstrap molasses (from raw cane sugar and canned sugar refining), cane molasses (from sugar cane juice and sugar beets), sulfured molasses (from sugarcane treated with sulfur dioxide), unsulfured molasses (from sugarcane that does not need sulfur), and hydrol (a by-product of starch hydrolysis).
Barley malt syrup
Barley malt syrup is made from soaked and sprouted barley, which is then dried and cooked down to a thick syrup. It is not as sweet as sugar or honey, and it gives off a strong, distinctive “malty” flavor. Its taste is often compared to molasses and its composition is very sticky and dark brown. Some manufacturers add corn syrup for additional sweetness.
When it comes to health benefits, barley malt syrup has a significant amount of antioxidants, having the antioxidant capacity of 19 natural sweeteners. It is rich in carbohydrates and also contains a decent amount of potassium and a small number of proteins.
However, barley malt syrup can make calories add up faster than sugar, and it is not advisable for those who are in a strict gluten-free diet.
MapleSyrupWorld About Us
And this is my office:
I’m a maple syrup artisan and founder of MapleSyrupWorld. I eat maple syrup with my cereal, meals (Salmon Gravlax with maple syrup anyone!), pancakes, fantastic french toast, my coffee and pretty much anything I can think of. I grew up in the great region of Quebec, surrounded by maple farms and maple products. As a youngster, my brother and I would wait eagerly for February so all the family could take a trip to the sugar shack for a gargantuesque feast of ham, eggs, beans all topped with maple syrup and ending with sugar pie, maple syrup on snow and some horse sledging.
As an adult, I lived in Europe for 6 years and realized that even though maple syrup appeared on the shelf during season (lucky me!), it was difficult to find a reliable source throughout the year. The same thing happened when I went to the United States and the western region of Canada.
This is how I got the idea for MapleSyrupWorld. MapleSyrupWorld is a reliable source of family farmed, artisan made fresh maple syrup. We own and operate a 220 acres maple farm in the Eastern Township in Canada, my wife, our 2 daughters and I.
All our maple syrup is artisan made by our family, on site with love and passion. We like to compare our maple syrup to whisky. In the whisky world, you have blends and single malts. Single malts are synonym of quality and terroir as a single malt is made with malted barley in pot stills at a single distillery while blended whisky is made by combining several single malts.
Well, our maple syrup is like a single malt. Unlike big bottlers of maple syrup who blends syrups from many producers and regions, we only use our own maple syrup unblended, fresh from this year’s crop.
You can access our website 24/7, place your order and know that within a week (or faster) you’ll receive your delicious maple syrup, maple butter, maple sugar or maple candies. We pride ourselves in offering the highest quality maple products at the best price.
Got some suggestions or just want to drop me a mail, be my guest: Richard.
MapleSyrupWorld is based in Eastman, Quebec, Canada.
Maple syrup should be simple. You go and find a tree, you stick a tap into it, and you drink from it. The actuality is that there’s loads of care and refinement that go into syrup between the tree and your plate which can make it taste better or worse, bringing out or hiding certain flavors. Then you must consider all the additives available for your pancake-topping. Hot sauce, peppers, honey, and all manner of adulterants can also be added to the smoky maple taste to give you a piquancy that was never meant for this Earth; but which makes a Belgian waffle sing with ecstasy.
Getting Real About Maple Syrup
Most Americans don’t get real maple syrup. Rather, we’re swilling a syrup concoction of sugar and viscous fluids with maple flavoring. To get the real stuff, you have to hunt a little and be ready to spend. In this dense world of taste, we’re proud to help you make your breakfast great with the 16 best real maple syrups for every palette.
A Note On Rankings: Maple syrup is given a letter ranking (A, B). These do not correspond to the quality of the syrup, but rather the darkness and richness it has. If you wish to know more about it, here’s Whole Food’s explanation of syrup rankings.
Country Folk: Fadden’s is what you would want a mom & pop maple syrup to be. Made right in a little general store and sugar shack, it’s simple goodness in a bottle. They offer typically grade A syrup, which is going to give you a lighter flavor, but you can special order batches of dark whenever they have some on hand. GearPatrol calls them “Best of New Hampshire“.
Purchase: $8 per 16 oz.
The Maple Guys Pure NH
The Horse’s Mouth: The Maple Guys aren’t really syrup suppliers by trade. They help people learn to make their own syrup right from trees. That isn’t to say this New Hampshire brand can’t hold their own when they do it up themselves, it just isn’t their primary purpose.
Purchase: $8 per 8 oz.
Hilltop Boilers Pure Maine
Tip of the Spear: Maine mostly does lobster better than anyone, but brave the cold of the north and you’ll find they’re also serious about syrup. Hilltop Boilers is another small syrup-making operation, but you can pick the grade you like when you order, and they’ll promptly reply if you have an issue. By the way: You won’t have an issue.
Purchase: $9 per 16 oz.
Maple Grove Farms Pure Maple
Better Blended: Wayne Gretzky had many more assists than he did goals, and he’s the greatest hockey player of all time. What the people at Maple Grove have done with their syrup is devised a flavor array that improves whatever it is mixed with. The pure maple taste is better for baking, and able to mesh with new flavors more easily than its overbearing peers.
Purchase: $11 per 12.5 oz.
Dutch Gold McLure’s
Twist Ending: This is a traditional maple that began with George McLure back during the civil war. It’s now made by a honey company for some reason. You can delve into the whole backstory, or you can just eat this naturally light, flavorful morass.
Purchase: $11 per 16 oz.
Infused Vermont Maple Syrup
Hair of the Dog: Infused with either vanilla or cinnamon flavors, this is made simply by hand, with real cinnamon and pure vanilla added to hot syrup so the flavor sinks in. There’s no synthetic additives involved, just natural ingredients and know-how.
Purchase: $14 per 8.5 oz.
Go Bold: Crown runs to the darker end of the spectrum, and looking at it you’d swear it’s fine, aged whiskey. More than most maple makers, part of Crown’s syrup refinement includes adding hints of roasted chestnut, butterscotch, spice, rye, and gingerbread. The end taste is so finely executed, and packaged with such care that you’ll feel more urbane just owning it.
Purchase: $17 per 12.5 oz.
People’s Champion: Packed with nutrients and harvested in the greenest way possible, we’re not sure if “finest” refers to the tastes, or to the overall mission of the company, but either way it belongs on all foods from now on.
Purchase: $18 per 17 oz.
Don’t Overthink: 100 maple syrup with a few different grade choices, you don’t need to go through a sugar shack in a tiny maple grove to get quality syrup. Able to compete with plenty of artisanal syrup makers, Kirkland and CostCo have made a flavorful syrup for any time of the day.
Purchase: $19 per 33.8
Camp 100% Pure
Incoming: A real Canadian import, Camp shows why settlers of the nation decided to put a maple leaf on their flag. The purity will hit you hard, and you’ll be changed forever, unable to enjoy any other syrup. If you like a strong, clean maple flavor, prepare for your tongue to enter paradise.
Purchase: $21 per 12.7 oz.
Brown Family Farm
Flying V: In New England, maple syrup is a national pastime. While others watch sports, Vermontonians tap trees. The Brown Family brand isn’t just good at what it does, they’re considered the best among people who work in the industry. A little darker thanks to a longer boil, this will knock you back.
Purchase: $24 per 32 oz.
Slow As: Uncle Luke seems to like his syrup seriously thick. Nearly molasses in consistency, this syrup is going to take a long time to hit your plate, but it’s a dark amber with plenty of sweet to go along with the quiet, earthy undertones. You’ll either hate it or be instantly hooked.
Purchase: $24 per 32 oz.
Coombs Family Farms Pure Organic
Naturalized: The Coombs family apparently takes truly natural eating very seriously. Certified as Kosher and organic, even the plastic jug is BPA free and easily recycled. They’ve recently dropped their Grade B stuff in favor of a very dark A, which is still wonderful and much easier to get.
Purchase: $24 per 32 oz.
Melts in Your Mouth: A very smooth blend, you’ll get hints of fruit, coffee, and maybe even butter as you consume the mixture from Sugarworks. Light and free of any dense tastes, this syrup is refreshing and won’t stick to your palette no matter how badly you want it to.
Purchase: $25 per 32 oz.
Embrace the Dark Side: A mainstream Grade B syrup is a rarity, so hat’s off to Trader Joe’s for giving us something to sink our teeth into. You won’t find many intricate nuances like you would with a syrup made from a smaller company, but you will find predictably rich flavor every time you crack a bottle.
Purchase: $26 per 32 oz.
Bushwick Kitchen Trees Knees Maple Madness
Triple Threat: We’re cheating a bit in packing three products onto one, but you can buy them individually if you so choose. Here we have the mad geniuses at Bushwick adding spice and cinnamon to our beloved maple for new tastes that breathe new life into the tired world of waffles.
Purchase: $45 per 40.5 oz.
And now your favorite?
<< back to foods in Montreal
What: Québec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, or sirop d’érable, as it’s known here, contributing about 75% of all maple syrup on the planet. This is not, of course, the same kind of syrup that comes out of mass-produced “breakfast syrup” bottles (which, truth be told, are more accurately called “corn syrup”); this is the real deal, the sugary sap that gets tapped out of maple trees and boiled down and filtered into a beautifully pure, 100%-additive-free syrup. It’s been consumed on this continent since indigenous days, and it’s delicious, ranging (depending on its grade) from light and sweet to rich and caramelized.
Maple syrup and its many derivatives—maple candy, maple beer, maple cookies, you name it—are everywhere in Montréal, whether you visit during the province’s “sugaring off” season (late February through April, generally) or not. Here’s where to find the sweet stuff.
Good to know: Impress a market vendor by familiarizing yourself with the basic grading systems of Canadian maple syrup, which have changed (along with the U.S.’s) in recent years. These are all based on how much light can be transmitted through the thin-to-thick syrups. What was once called Extra Light is now Grade A Golden (light, delicate taste); that’s followed by Grade A Amber (richer taste), Grade A Dark (robust taste), and Grade A Very Dark (intense; mostly used for cooking and/or industrial purposes). (Québec’s provincial system uses two grades.) Amber is probably the best bet if you intend to pour your syrup on pancakes—not too light, not too sweet, not too caramelly—although some people prefer the thicker, sappier Dark variety. Always check the label, too, to make sure you’re buying pure maple syrup—even in Québec, you can find cheap imposters that add in corn syrup and the like.
Where: Our bottled maple syrup—a no-brainer of a souvenir in this city—is from Le Marché des Saveurs du Québéc (280, Place du marché du nord, map), a wonderful store just outside Marché Jean-Talon that specializes in all things produced within the province.
When: Mon-Wed, 9am-6pm; Thurs-Fri, 9am-8pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-6pm
Order: This small bottle (250 ml) of pure Québécois “Canada No. 1 Medium” (the equivalent of Grade A Amber in the new system) maple syrup goes for $8. You will likely want to buy other things here, whether it be tarte au sucre and local craft beer or some Québécois ice cider from the liquor shop adjacent.
Alternatively: Some winning dishes around town shine the spotlight on local maple syrup (see the Plogue à Champlain dish from Au Pied de Cochon we feature in our foie gras entry), but for scoring bottles of the goods, try the vendors at local markets (look for the rows of cans at Marché Jean-Talon) or, in Old Montréal, visit the Délices Érable & CIE store (84, rue St-Paul Est, map), which sells maple everything (cookies, gelato, salt), including syrup.
If, however, you are in town during maple syrup season, you should try your best to day-trip to a country cabane à sucre, or sugar shack, which is where the trees are grown and tapped when the weather is right. These spots are at the heart of maple syrup production in Québec, and it’s not just about the syrup either—many have rustic, family-style dining rooms that serve up a parade of traditional Québécois dishes, like pea soup, fèves au lard, thick-cut bacon, and pouding chômeur, alongside endless beer and maple whisky. They’re no joke.
The New York Times likes Sucrerie de la Montagne (300, Chemin St-Georges, Rigaud, map), about 45 minutes from Montréal—notably, it offers overnight accommodation and is open year-round. About the same distance from town is Au Pied de Cochon’s own celebrated (and seasonally open) Cabane à Sucre (11382, rang de la Fresnière, St-Benoît, map), though it’s very popular and notoriously hard to get into. There are literally hundreds of these shacks around the province; check out listings by region here.
Although it might not feel like it in many places across the country, spring is officially here, which means budding tulips, berry picking, bird watching and mountain biking are on the horizon. Our favourite springtime activity, however, is a sweeter take on the season: maple syrup festivals. It’s no surprise that Canada boasts plenty of maple syrup festivals– after all, we do produce 85 percent of the world’s supply. So why not tap into your sweet tooth and check out one of these eight maple syrup festivals across the country?
Sugaring Off Festival, Saint-Pierre-Jolys, Manitoba
The Sugaring Off Festival (April 11 – 12) honours Canada’s maple syrup legacy with horse-drawn rides, New France era soldiers, traditional French-Canadian food, fiddling competitions and historically accurate demonstrations of maple syrup production. History lessons aside, there are plenty of maple candies and syrups for tasting, which we all know is the festival’s real treat. More info: Sugaring Off Festival
Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Elmira, Ontario
Now in its 51st year, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (March 28) has been recognized as the World’s largest single-day maple syrup festival by the Guinness Book of Records. While the festival is stacked with events, the real draw is exploring the sugar bushes where you’ll get to experience how maple syrup is collected and prepared. Finish off the day with old-fashioned toffee and freshly-flipped pancakes topped with Elmira’s famous maple syrup. More info: Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival, Elmvale, Ontario
This one-day event brings over 30,000 visitors to sleepy Elmvale, a small town just north of Toronto. Along with tours to the local sugar bushes, the festival—celebrating its 50th anniversary this year—features plenty of activities in-town like pancake-eating contests, an arts and crafts show, log-sawing competitions, and live music. So if you’re heading up to Ontario’s cottage country on April 25, be sure to stop at the festival to pick up enough maple syrup to last all year. More info: Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival
Cabane à sucre Leclerc, Neuville, Quebec
Quebec is the maple syrup capital of Canada with almost 80 percent of the world’s supply produced in the province’s sugar shacks. One of the province’s hundreds of shacks is the Leclerc’s, who open up their family-run facilities to the public all spring long. Ride a horse-drawn wagon, practice your log-sawing skills, and try the shack’s incredible syrup. More info: Cabane à sucre Leclerc
Sucrerie de la Montagne, Chemin St-Georges, Quebec
Situated on Mont Rigaud and bounded by 120 acres of maple trees, this farm is one of Quebec’s most popular destinations during the sugaring off season. From February to April, visitors at Sucrerie de la Montagne can enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides, nosh at the bakery and feast on all-you-can-eat traditional Quebecois dishes like pea soup, baked beans, and meat pie. Before you leave, be sure to stock up on maple delights like taffy and syrup. More info: Sucrerie de la Montagne
Riverview Annual Maple Sugar Festival, Riverview, New Brunswick
Although when we think of maple syrup we tend to envision sugar shacks in Ontario and Quebec, over 1.8 million kilograms of syrup is produced in New Brunswick every year. The climate, soil and forest of the Atlantic coast give maple syrup here a unique flavour that’s beloved worldwide. At the Riverview Maple Sugar Festival (April 10 – 12), visitors can enjoy a whole day’s worth of activities. Start off the day with pancakes smothered in local syrup and then tour the sugar camps. After, gorge on maple barbecue and enjoy some treats like taffy on the snow, maple cotton candy and maple-flavoured ice cream. Finally, grab your flashlight and hike along the Dobson Trail. Be sure to stop at the campfire where you can snack on, you guessed it, maple s’mores. More info: Riverview Annual Maple Sugar Festival
Maple Capital of Atlantic Canada Festival, Saint-Quentin, New Brunswick
According the organizers behind the Maple Capital of the Atlantic Festival (March 31 – April 4), maple syrup is like fine wine. Different regions give it different flavours and there’s nothing like a vintage syrup. At this festival, you’ll learn how syrup is made while trying plenty of varieties of New Brunswick maple syrup. More info: Maple Capital of Atlantic Canada Festival
We occasionally link to goods offered by vendors to help the reader find relevant products. Some of these may be affiliate based, meaning we earn small commissions (at no additional cost to you) if items are purchased. Here is more about what we do.
Every time we go out to breakfast or brunch, my one friend has to bring something with her…
She packs her own stash of pure maple syrup, a mini bottle tucked away in her purse.
To some, it might be an odd thing to do – why not just use the syrup the restaurant provides?
But did you know that there isn’t just one kind of maple syrup?
With a range of flavors, colors, grades, and sweetness levels, it is a unique ingredient perfect for a wide range of applications: topping your breakfast, mixing into cocktails, and using as a glaze for veggies and meats.
It’s no wonder that my friend has a particular kind she likes to use!
So how is this sweet stuff actually made?
There’s a lot to do to way before you grab a bottle and pour a cascade of syrup on your stack of pancakes!
If you’ve ever been curious just how that addictively rich, sweet liquid is made, keep on reading. With the help and know-how of one expert in the field, we tap into the process of making of maple syrup, and the different varieties available to buy now.
How It’s Made
Laura Sorkin and Eric Sorkin, married co-founders of Runamok Maple, know all about the process of making this sweet concoction. Their Vermont-based company produces a deliciously sweet variety of pure, infused, smoked, and barrel-aged options – all tapped from the 81,000 trees grown in the 1,350 acres Runamok owns, spanning across the northern part of the state.
Runamok Maple co-founders Laura Sorkin and Eric Sorkin.
Laura Sorkin is the perfect source to explain how it’s made.
First, the production of maple syrup is referred to as sugaring (how sweet!).
In mid-winter, trees are “tapped” by drilling a small hole in each tree and hammering in a tap, which can be connected to a tube and large tank.
Tapping a maple tree.
Once the sap has been extracted and transported to the sugar house, the maple syrup production facility, the majority of the water in the syrup is removed – for Runamok’s products, 90% of the water is removed.
“The concentrated sap is then boiled to syrup consistency. It takes between 40-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.”
The concentrated liquid is then sent through a filter press to create a clear, amber liquid – maple syrup!
A Runamok crew member tapping a tree.
The final product can have a world of variations.
“Just like wine and cheese, there will be a difference in taste of maple syrup depending upon where it came from,” explains Sorkin.
“The French call it terroir, and it just means that the taste profile is a product of the soil and climate of our property.”
The Runamok Maple sugar house production facility.
“The taste of the syrup will also change within the season, starting out light and getting darker as the season goes on,” Sorkin continues.
Want to learn more about the different options available to you? Keep reading below to get all the info you need on the grading scale, and what it means in terms of taste.
Grading the Sweet Sap
Although not required, most United States varieties are assigned a grade – on a scale of four different US Grade A color/taste classes.
Grade is typically determined by color, translucence, and flavor. Some factors that affect grading include sugar content of the sap, what point in the season it was harvested, and the rate of evaporation.
Grade A classification requires that it is clean, free from cloudiness, and free from off flavors and odors, with a uniform, bright color.
Grade is an important factor to consider when making a purchase.
During a trip to Vermont, I was able to attend a tasting. I was offered samples of each grade in order to figure out which one was my favorite, and I suggest you do the same to pick out what you like based on your personal flavor preferences.
A kitchen full of this sweet, delicious condiment? Who’s complaining…
See below for a more detailed rundown on the most recent USDA grade classifications, and where to find some of our favorites.
US Grade A Golden Color, Delicate Taste
This is the highest grade available, with a mild, subtle taste.
This variety is generally produced early in the season, when the temperature is cooler. Higher temperatures lead to sap fermentation, which contributes to the darker, more flavorful characteristics of the other grades.
Foodal Recommends Mount Mansfield Maple Syrup Golden Color, Delicate Taste
US Grade A Amber Color, Rich Taste
This grade has a full-bodied taste of medium intensity – not too strong, not too delicate.
Foodal Recommends Runamok Sugarmaker’s Cut Organic Maple Syrup
Runamok Sugarmaker’s Cut has this grade, produced in the middle of the season when “we find the flavor to have the perfect balance of caramel, acid, honey and floral flavors,” Sorkin says.
Another favorite of this type is Maine Maple Syrup, available from Stonewall Kitchen, which they say is “one of most sought after localized items.”
Foodal Recommends Maine Maple Syrup, available in several sizes from Stonewall Kitchen
US Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste
Products sold with this grade will have a stronger taste than any of the previous grades.
Foodal Recommends Coombs Family Farms Organic Maple Syrup Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste
US Grade A Very Dark Color, Strong Taste
This grade will have the strongest taste compared to all other grades.
Foodal Recommends Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup Grade A Very Dark, Strong Taste
For a fun exploration of a bevy of taste sensations, this deliciously sticky sweetener can be infused and flavored with a variety of ingredients.
A line of Runamok Barrel-aged syrup.
Wanting “to do some different things with maple,” as Sorkin says, Runamok has produced a line of barrel-aged and infused selections, often experimenting with new infusions and barrel types, like cinnamon and vanilla, smoked pecan wood, jasmine tea, and whiskey or bourbon barrels.
Have fun searching for your own favorite flavored syrups!
Foodal Recommends Runamok Barrel-Aged Bourbon Maple Syrup
The Other Guys
To ensure you’re getting the real stuff, look to the ingredients: you want to see 100% pure maple syrup! Unless you intend to buy something infused or flavored, there should be no other ingredients listed.
If you see corn syrup, caramel color, molasses, natural and artificial flavors, or stabilizers on the ingredient list, you are not eating the pure ingredient.
Do your research, readers!
A One-of-a-Kind Ingredient You Need to Have
My friend isn’t crazy – with so many subtle variations of taste and color with this product, she knows what she likes!
Take the time to find out what you like – experiment at home, go to tastings, and try new recipes to determine what your favorite varieties and grades are, and how you like to incorporate them in your kitchen.
Have any of you participated in sugaring before? We’d love to hear all about your experiences with this one-of-a-kind ingredient, and if you have any favorite recipes. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For some of our favorite recipes that incorporate this sweet ingredient, try these:
- Pear Sorbet with Ginger-Infused Maple Syrup
- Sweet and Salty Maple Cookies
- Blueberry Galettes
- Vegan Pumpkin Muffins
Photos by Carol Sullivan © Runamok Maple, reprinted with permission. Product photos via Mount Mansfield, Runamok, Coombs Family Farms, Stonewall Kitchen, and Anderson’s. Uncredited photos: . Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on March 19th, 2015. Last updated: January 10, 2019 at 19:33 pm.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a hungry foodie living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she is not tearing through her city’s best cheesesteaks, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.