It goes without saying that not all maple syrups are equal. And we’re not even talking about the difference between Grade A Medium Amber and the factory-grade dark stuff found on most grocery store shelves. Our taste buds have come a long way since childhood breakfasts of Eggo waffles brimming with Aunt Jemima’s sugary-sweet stuff in every pocket, but amongst the crop of all-natural, better-quality maple syrups, there are major differences in taste as well.
While Vermont is usually credited for being the maple syrup state, Crown Maple Farm recently put New York’s Dutchess County on the map (and that was before Sen. Chuck Schumer made a losing bet on the Yankees involving the syrup). Crown Maple’s organic syrup is produced through reverse osmosis, a method that protects the sap from prolonged exposure to heat, thus resulting in the purest flavor. Its reverse osmosis machinery is currently the only of its kind here in the U.S.
Besides boasting three varieties of exceptional syrup—light, medium and dark amber—each wildly different in taste, the farm’s website offers up recipes and tips for using maple syrup in cooking and eating that go far beyond a plate of pancakes. Given the popularization of natural sugar alternatives like agave and stevia, it only makes sense that maple syrup should be another one to consider. Here are delicious reasons to keep a bottle of syrup at the ready—and to keep the varying flavors in mind, we used Crown Maple’s three different types as our guide.
This syrup’s sap is farmed at the earliest point in the season, which yields a delicate, almost buttery flavor profile. Crown Maple’s actually reminded us of those dregs of syrup left after eating pancakes, delicious as a dipping vehicle for bacon and sausage. To that end, it’s a great base for meat or root vegetable glazes, as well as bacon recipes.
Bolder on the nose and in flavor, Crown Maple’s medium amber had more toasted notes, almost like the top of crême brulée, which lends itself extremely well to fall ingredients. “This is probably the best for using in your cooking,” says Crown Maple’s Lydia Turner, who incorporates the fuller-bodied syrup in everything from apple sauce to baked goods to savory dishes like pulled pork — even salad dressings and a burger recipe. As a cocktail component, medium amber syrup also lends more depth and complexity than sugar or simple syrup, making it more than just a sweetener in drinks like a mojito.
Heaviest in flavor and body, dark amber can stand alone as a condiment, especially paired with equally strong yet contrasting flavors. Pair it with cheeses instead of honey, or as a dipping sauce for Asian foods (on its own or blended with soy sauce). It may be best suited for coffee, however. “We’ve got our whole family hooked on it,” says Turner. “A tablespoon in my coffee gives it just enough flavor.” Rather than turning your morning thunder into a dessert drink, the syrup amps up joe with a full-bodied, smoky-sweetness—and without the bitter aftertaste brought on by some artificial sweeteners.