Did you know that maple syrup comes in four different grades; golden, amber, dark, and very dark? Each grade has its own unique characteristics and is classified based on its colour and flavour. By grading maple syrup in this way, we can help consumers to choose the best maple syrup to use for each dish they wish to make.
The colour and flavour of maple sap changes subtly throughout the spring harvest and the darker the syrup, the stronger the flavour. Sap harvested early in the season is light in colour while sap harvested at the end of the season is much darker.
Harvesting happens every year in spring when, the sap rises due to the bitterly cold nights and warmer days, allowing it to be tapped and collected from the trees. Tapping season lasts for about four to six weeks, between March and April.
Each grade of maple syrup is produced in the same way – by boiling the sap, traditionally in a sugar shack, until enough water has evaporated to reach maple syrup’s correct density. Only when the boiling sap reaches this density, is it considered maple syrup.
So, what actually are the differences between each grade and how do you decide which one is best for you?
Golden – delicate flavour
Golden maple syrup is produced from the sap collected at the very beginning of the season and is light in colour. It has a sweet, delicate flavour, often with hints of vanilla.
This grade of maple is great with desserts, pancakes and French toast.
Alternatively, golden maple is great for drizzling over waffles, pancakes or ice cream. If you have a sweet tooth, it’s also good for adding a slightly sweeter taste to baking- try adding it to blueberry muffins or a simple sponge pudding for a delicate maple flavour.
Amber – rich taste
Amber maple syrup is harvested midway through the season and is still relatively light in colour but darker than golden maple.
This grade of maple has a pure, rich taste and is known for its smooth, more rounded flavour. Due to its unique and subtle tones, it’s ideal for making vinaigrettes and table syrup, or just drizzling over sweet and savoury dishes.
Alternatively, amber maple works well when cooking and makes a great addition to family favourites such as curry or casserole – just a few tablespoons will transform your recipe, creating a light, sweet flavour.
Dark – robust taste
Dark maple syrup has a deeper and more intense colour and flavour.
Harvested later in the season, this grade of maple has its darker colour and more robust taste because the sugar content of the sap has fallen by this point in the season.
Due to its full-bodied, more pronounced flavour, dark maple is best used for recipes that require a heavy maple flavour and is perfect for cooking, desserts, and sauces. It pairs well with baked apples and roasted vegetables or can be used to sweeten baked goods.
Alternatively, try pairing with cheese in place of honey for a more unconventional flavour boost.
Very dark – strong taste
Very dark maple syrup is produced last in the season and is exceptionally robust, being the darkest in colour of all the grades.
It has a rich, distinctive flavour that is more pronounced than that of dark maple and is best used for recipes that require a strong maple flavour. Used primarily as a commercial ingredient, this grade is very popular among food manufacturers, with many brands and chefs relying on this specific grade for recipes.
Due to its strong taste, very dark maple is recommended for sauces and glazes where the flavour needs to be carried through to the finished dish, giving a delicious depth of flavour. It’s also perfect for baking- try adding to bread or cookies to give a rich, sweet taste to your favourite treats.
A natural source of energy
Maple syrup is a natural source of energy. Check out our recipes for food and drinks before, during, and after exercise.