Thursday, April 14, 2011

Real vs. Fake, Part V : Maple Syrup

What is the difference between this:

and this?

As you might expect from the title of this post...a lot! The upper bottle is a bottle of pure, 100% maple syrup made from the sap of the maple tree. For a strong sugar, it is Clean - and in small servings will add a strong maple flavor to your foods.

Maple syrup is divided into two major grades in the US: Grade A and Grade B.

Grade A is further broken down into three sub-grades: Light Amber (sometimes known as Fancy), Medium Amber, and Dark Amber. Grade B is darker than Grade A Dark Amber.

From left to right:
Vermont Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, Grade B

The bottle on the bottom is faux syrup - so unlike maple syrup that anything that isn't made entirely of maple sap (besides a pinch or two of salt or other seasonings) cannot legally be marketed as "maple syrup". Next time you see the syrup isle of a grocery store, or you look into your pantry, take a look at all the bottles of syrup in there. I can guaruntee you that, unless it is made of pure maple syrup, you will not see the word "maple" anywhere on those bottles. Indeed, the bottom on the bottle doesn't mention the word
"maple" anywhere. But if the bottle says "Pancake syrup", "waffle syrup", or "table syrup" - you can be assured you have a handful of high fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring and flavoring. People in Canada and along the most Northern US states sometimes refer to imitation maple syrup as sirop de poteau ("pole syrup"), a joke referring to the syrup as having been made by tapping telephone poles.

What is faux syrup made of? 

Ingredients: Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, sodium benzoate and sorbic acid (preservatives), artificial and natural flavors, sodium hexametaphosphate ( ?? )

Recently, Log Cabin released a new, "natural" syrup. Looking at the bottle, you might be fooled at the grocery store into thinking this is "real" maple syrup. They even mimic the cute little jug Vermont and Canadian maple syrups are often packed in.

But wait, what is this? Check out the ingredients:

This "all natural syrup" is actually a mixture of Brown Rice syrup, sugar, and only 4% maple syrup - and they add caramel color to make it look more convincing. Look at the carbs!

Of course - if you are going to use maple syrup, buy a bottle of the expensive stuff - the real thing. The flavor will be better, it is actually a healthier choice, and you will be supporting small farmers who grow the maple trees.