What kind of syrup do you buy?

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Back when we dined in blissful ignorance on HFCS-containing foods, our favorite syrup was Log Cabin. The first ingredient in Log Cabin's list at the time was HFCS. So, we switched to pure maple syrup.  I am happy to report that Log Cabin has since removed HFCS from it's syrups, but we've stuck with real maple syrup even though it is more expensive.  (If you're avoiding HFCS, read those ingredients!  Most artificial maple syrups still use HFCS.)

Using real maple syrup has its advantages.  First, it isn't nearly as viscous as Log Cabin and the other artificial maple flavored syrups, and with the thinner consistency a little maple syrup goes a long way - and that's a good thing because it's expensive! Second, did you know that maple syrup actually has some health benefits? It contains a ton of manganese and zinc - two trace elements and natural antioxidants that are good for your health. It's also loaded with calcium - the same amount as whole milk! That just blows my mind - in a good way.  Of course, hopefully you're not consuming a glass full of maple syrup, but it is nice to know that it's in there.   Last, it has fewer calories than corn syrup.  (Though it doesn't have fewer calories than the "light" artificial maple syrups out there.  That "light" designation often comes at a price, though, as the "light" syrups are often full of other artificial ingredients.) With all of that going for it, I can overlook the steep price, I suppose, and not feel so bad when we have a syrup laden breakfast.

You might think that maple syrup is maple syrup, but not so. There are different grades and different classifications within the different grades, and they all have different flavors.  When we first switched to maple syrup, I was used to the more subtle maple flavor of the artificial syrups.  The flavor of the Grade A Dark Amber real maple syrup that I could find in my grocery stores was too intense for my taste.  With just a little digging, I learned that Grade B actually has a stronger flavor than Grade A, and that Grade A Medium Amber and Grade A Light Amber are most commonly used as table syrups.  It strikes me as funny that Grade A Dark Amber is what I can find in grocery stores.

Amazon came to our rescue, as usual.  We were able to order some Grade A Medium Amber maple syrup, which had a much less pronounced maple flavor that was just right.  We have since come to enjoy a deeper maple flavor and now buy Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup.  I won't lie, it is expensive.  I buy in bulk (a gallon at a time either through Amazon or directly from the farm) and store the extra in my fridge to save money.  A little goes a long way for us, so I don't feel bad paying the money for the real deal.

Just why is maple syrup so expensive?  Maple syrup has not always been so expensive.  Prices have gone up dramatically in the past five or so years.  The increase in prices isn't a conspiracy by the maple syrup producers.  We can blame the weather for the stiff increase.  Maple syrup is produced from sap collected from certain maple trees.  This sap collection depends on freezing cold nights and warm days.  Recent warm springs have played havoc with sap collection.  Add to this increasing demand for the real deal, and prices remain high. 

Ah, well.  I'm still content to be buying real maple syrup.  The benefits outweigh the cost in my household.


Amy May 26, 2010 at 2:12 PM  

Sounds yummy! I would love to get the real stuff.
We are lame with syrup. I follow the recipe on the maple extract bottle (sugar plus water plus extract ). We don't use syrup super often, so we make it each time we want some.

Cindy Rowland May 26, 2010 at 3:45 PM  

While we only have fresh farm grown vegetables for what seems like 2 weeks out of the year, there are up sides to living in New England. Pure maple syrup is one of them. My husband grew up in Maine and I'm pretty sure he would see imitation syrup as grounds for divorce.

Also, a while ago Nutrition Data blog had a nutritional analysis up for molasses and maple syurp - http://blog.nutritiondata.com/ndblog/2009/09/molasses-and-maple-syrup-more-nutritious-sweeteners.html. I'm not a math whiz, but the high in calicum claim sounds a little wonky to me. Correct me if I'm wrong.

cathy May 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM  

Cindy - I think that the calcium claim is all in how you look at it. A TBSP of maple syrup contains about 20 mg of calcium (I'm sure that there's some variation between areas), which is on par with how much calcium is in a TBSP of milk. To me, that's a lot of calcium! When I first looked into real maple syrup a couple of years ago, I was blown away by that. So, it might not have as much as molasses (which has MORE calcium per volume than milk), but it still has way more than I expected a supposedly simple sweet syrup to have - especially when you compare it to the artificial stuff! With both molasses and maple syrup, though, you're not guzzling it by the cupful (I hope), so neither should be relied upon as a good source of calcium.

Kathleen (Getting Healthy with Bubba and Bellie) May 26, 2010 at 10:34 PM  

We love real maple syrup! I admit though that we didn't buy it often until we learned about HFCS. We get ours at Trader Joe's.

Erin May 27, 2010 at 12:52 PM  

We are very fortunate to live within 20 miles of a friend's orchard and sugarbush; they make their maple syrup each year and post daily collection reports on their facebook fan page. It blew my mind to learn that nearly 60 gallons of sap go into a gallon of syrup, and that the flavor can change as the season goes along (they give taste-tests of their syrup grades at our farmers' market). Needless to say, I started using their product as a luxury and as a way to support their business; now, I eagerly await the first day that their syrup is available at market, and I buy by the gallon, EARLY, to ensure syrup throughout the year.

Hilary May 27, 2010 at 1:17 PM  

Interesting. I just bought some at Costco... I will have to try it! Bone up my bones. :)

Sagan May 31, 2010 at 6:12 AM  

Being Canadian, it would be blasphemy to get fake syrup :D I always get the real stuff. The locally-made pure maple syrup is especially delicious.

Lori May 31, 2010 at 7:25 AM  

I am with you. We used to love the "pancake syrup" as it is called. Ha, ha! I skipped over maple because of the price. Now, though, I find it completely worth it. Once you consider the quality and the work to produce it, it is worth pitching pennies elsewhere to have it around. I now consider it a quality ingredient staple.

Rachel May 31, 2010 at 7:27 AM  

Thank heavens for Costco and their delicious real maple syrup.

Funny enough, a lot of times, Costco seems to be slightly ahead of the curve in offering the organic, healthy alternatives, even before they become popular. Like back when the issues of hydrogenated oils and trans-fats were first being made public, Costco was already selling their nautral peanut butter. So I just thank Costco for making it a lot easier to eat properly.

dining table June 2, 2010 at 12:34 AM  

The syrup looks so yummy! I have always loved it! Thanks for this post.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary June 4, 2010 at 6:32 AM  

As a native Vermonter, the idea of the fake syrup turns my stomach! There's just no comparison to the real stuff and for those of us who grew up on it, Grade B is the way to go! There's another upshot to buying the real stuff too: it's very easy to support local, small maple sugarers. I buy a gallon every time I go home to VT.

mama love June 11, 2010 at 10:30 AM  

I am so thankful to have found this blog. After reading Michael Pollan's EXCELLENT books In Defense of Food and Food Rules,I am also on a mission to revamp my family's intake. I made gradual switches over time and the pure maple syrup, despite the cost, is soooooo worth it. My Maple Ginger Salmon is forever changed!!!

Anonymous June 23, 2010 at 7:51 PM  

Another very good use for maple syrup that I found is to use it in oatmeal! A little bit goes a long way, but it is soooooo delicious!

Viagra online June 26, 2011 at 7:15 AM  

I buy organic syrup. Everything that is available on an organic basic I buy.

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