Clockwise below: In addition to serving
as the site where sap is collected and
boiled into syrup, sugar shacks are
a great destination for maple candy,
doughnuts, fresh eggs and more.
Vacuum tubing uses the force of gravity
to carry maple sap to a pumping station.
When boiled sap cools down in snow it
becomes a sticky, soft candy.
of vacuum tubing that crisscrossed the
snowy landscape. This system uses the
force of gravity to carry sap to a pumping
station in the lowest point among a stand
of maple trees, known as a sugar bush.
GRADING SYSTEM COMPARISON
The scale moves from light to dark.
Golden: Delicate taste.
Amber: Rich taste.
Dark: Robust taste.
Very dark: Strong taste.
Grade A: Light amber.
Grade A: Medium amber.
Grade A: Dark amber.
ALL THE WAY
SYRUP AFICIONADOS may have noticed
that maple syrup labels have changed
over the past year. Instead of both
Grade A and Grade B, all syrup is now
Grade A. The primary reason for the
change, says Martin Plante, CEO of Kirkland Signature syrup supplier Citadelle,
is that the change “helps consumers to
have the same grading category wherever they go.” Before the change, it
wasn’t uncommon for grades to differ
from state to state or country to country. “Ultimately, it helps consumers
understand what they’re buying, with
a clear reference to taste and color
profile,” Plante adds.—SEP
From there sap is pumped to a sugar
shack, where a process of reverse osmosis
helps remove any naturally occurring particles. The next step is to pump the sap into
a narrow ridged pan called an evaporator,
where it’s boiled until it becomes syrup,
which leaves the air inside the sugar shack
heavy with the mouthwatering smell of
maple syrup. Then the syrup is put into
barrels or drums, labeled with the grower’s information and sent to a bottling
plant or warehouse.
Chayer explains, “At the end of the season, the taps are removed and the hole is
cleaned and blocked. A tree cannot be
retapped in the same spot. The
rubber tubing is also cleaned out
so it’s ready for the next season.”
Making the grade
The barrels of syrup are graded
once they reach the warehouse.
Grades range from golden, with a
delicate taste, to very dark, which
has a strong taste. (See “Grade A
all the way.”)
Small samples are pulled from
every barrel. Each is assessed
based on its color, light transmittance (how much light comes
through the syrup), sugar levels
(measured on the Brix scale) and
taste. The ideal Brix level for
maple syrup is ;; percent. If the
sugar dips too low, the syrup runs
the risk of molding. If it’s too high,
the syrup can crystallize.
Once the syrup is graded, the
barrel gets a label with the grade
and Brix levels. Syrup is graded
again before it’s bottled and once more
while it’s being bottled to make sure
Costco members get exactly what’s on the
label. (Note: Costco’s coated jugs help
prevent oxidation, which darkens syrup
Costco’s grade of choice is amber, which
has a rich taste. “Amber rich syrup has a
good balance of maple and butter ;avor,”
says Leanne Bender, a Costco corporate
Recognizing that grade preference is a
personal choice, she adds, “Amber rich has
a very well-rounded and rich taste, which
makes it great as a topping and ingredient.
It won’t overpower other ;avors, but still
o;ers great maple ;avor.”
Because of the various layers of testing
and grading, Bender adds, “Each barrel is
;;; percent traceable back to
the farm where it’s from,
which is important
to our suppliers and
Pure maple magic
Not only is maple syrup delicious, but
it’s the only ingredient in Costco’s Kirkland Signature product. Better yet, “with
good maple syrup you don’t even need butter,” says Bender.
Indeed, Kirkland Signature Maple
Syrup is a ;;; percent natural product,
and is all you need for pancakes, wa;es or
French toast. It’s also delicious mixed into
plain yogurt and oatmeal or drizzled on top
of ice cream. And it’s a great addition to
dressing, marinades for vegetables and
meats, and, of course, a variety of baked
goods and other desserts.
One last thing: No matter how you use
it, don’t forget to refrigerate it. C