The various kinds of maple syrup are differentiated by grades. While it may seem that the grading system is designed to categorize by quality, it is not. No grade is inferior to another. Because of this, the old grading system was confusing since it included different letter grades up to grade C. This gave consumers the impression that Grade B maple syrup was a worse product than Grade A and that Grade C was the lowest quality of all, which wasn’t the case. The grades are all about identifying variations in flavor. Below are the four main maple syrup grades.
Grade A Golden Color and Delicate Flavor
With the palest color and mildest taste of the different maple syrup grades, Grade A Golden Color maple syrup is perfect for giving pancakes and waffles a subtle maple flavor. The mildness also means that of all the maple syrup grades, it is the best suited to being a general-purpose sweetener. You can use it as an ice cream topping or in coffee and other beverages without giving them a strong maple character.
Grade A Golden Color maple syrup is made at an early point in the sugaring season, which means that it is usually harvested near the end of February. This grade was formerly the Fancy grade of maple syrup.
Grade A Amber Color and Rich Flavor
Darker than the Golden grade, Amber maple syrup is a little darker and has a richer and more noticeable maple taste with distinct caramel notes. This is the grade most people recognize and it is the most popular form of the syrup for use on pancakes, waffles, and French toast.
Pancake syrup is meant to mimic the flavor and color of this maple syrup grade. It is produced mid-season as temperatures are starting to climb. Grade A Amber Color was formerly Grade A Medium Amber.
Grade A Dark Color and Robust Flavor
With the warming temperatures later in the season, the sugar content in the sap will fall. As a result, it will be necessary to reduce the sap further to get a gallon of syrup. The longer it takes to reduce the sap by boiling it, the darker it becomes. That lengthy process is why Grade A Dark Color syrup is as dark as it is.
Along with being dark, it also offers a more robust flavor that is ideal for those with a particular liking for maple. You can use this grade for all the traditional maple syrup applications like pancakes and waffles but it makes a great glaze for meats as well. Use it on hams as well as in barbecue sauce. It can hold its own when paired with stronger flavors. The old name for Grade A dark Color was Grade B.
Grade A Very Dark Color and Strong Flavor
The darkest and most strongly flavored maple syrup is produced at the very end of the sugaring season, which is in the spring. The darkness of this grade of maple syrup along with the strong flavor is why it is often likened to molasses.
The concentrated flavor makes it a preferred ingredient for baking where it acts as a flavoring as well as a sweetener. The strong flavor is diluted by the flour, eggs and other ingredients in most baked goods. The old name for Grade A Very Dark maple syrup was Grade C.