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best maple syrup


rmillman
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My favorite has got to be the small batches that my parents make in their tiny sugar house (if only to keep myself on both the distribution and inheritance lists), which I can never get enough of. Baggage handlers run in fear when I'm returning from Vermont after the spring sap run! :raz: But the two you linked to sound wonderful--I wonder if I can entice my parents to try some experiments with theirs...

On a side note, the Mikuni site lists two applications for the "make your own vanilla thread" as well!

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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I love maple syrup from Montreal.  Unfortunately, there's no name on the label - I just pick it up at Atwater market!  I love the taste of maple syrup from Montreal!

There are hundreds of private producers in my area (western NY), they almost all have some very light amber syrups that taste like what I grew up with, but it's getting them to sell it to you. On the other hand most commercially or mixed producer's batched syrup tastes just like that commercial mass produced garbage on the grocery store shelves. I haven't tasted extensively or anything, but I doubt that anybody does it quite so good as the little guy, yet.

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My family married into a maple-syrup-producing family in Vermont. They are the epitome of the artisanal, small-scale, sustainable producer. Every year, we get a few quarts of their syrup. I've done quite a bit of tasting in various arrangements.

I would say (and this is the opinion of our relatives too, at least the one I've spoken to the most about this issue) that 90+ percent of the maple syrup produced at the artisan level tastes just like the maple syrup from Costco. The most popular maple syrup, like vodka, is highly refined and has little subtlety or complexity.

The lower grades of dark amber syrup can have greatly enhanced flavor. But it's not as simple as just doing that. Maple syrup also varies in flavor from tree to tree and from batch to batch throughout the season. Most dark doesn't taste all that special. So only some batches are particularly suitable for consumption this way (the rest get sold off, often for blending). These are usually given to friends and family, and ideed only to the inner circle: for the first few years of the relationship, the syrup we got was generic; only later on did we start getting the hardcore stuff. I think there's simply not enough of it for sale in any serious quantity.

The examples rmillman cites sound delicious, however they probably do not derive their unique flavors from the actual maple syrup. One is smoked, the other is aged in wood.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Small batch producers don't have the economy of scale to do anything but sell locally. At least in Vermont, sap is evaporated to a particular specific gravity and then graded on clarity. The sap run gets progressively darker over the course of the sugaring season.

To use a viniculture term, there may be some terroir involved but as far as I know, no one has ever documented it.

Jim

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I am constantly looking for best of the best maple syrup as well as unique flavor profiles.

Two favorites in the later category:

Smoked maple syrup:

http://site.smokedsyrup.com/Buy.html

Blis bourbon barrel aged syrup:

http://www.mikuniwildharvest.com/

Any others out there?

Growing up in Quebec (where I believe close to 90% of the world maple syrup is produced) I thought I knew about maple syrup... but that Blis bourbon barrel aged syrup is just amazing! My national pride took a hard hit when I first tried it :wink:

That being said... it is true that maple syrup varies greatly in quality but contrary to what people seems to argue here there are almost no large scale producers. Most of the time you will find small familly size producers who are doing it as a hobby or for the extra source of $ in the spring... in any case, you need to be dedicated to your product and enjoy the work.

The problem resides in the fact that most of the production in Quebec (and remember that this is where the vast majority of the production is done) is bought by large cooperatives where it is mixed and stored. This is done to regulate the price over time. The rationale behind it is that these small businesses are not equiped to manoeuvre in a competitive market marked by important price fluctuations due to the important variation in production year after year.

This means that most of what is available on the market has been stored for a long time (sometimes well over five years I have been told). The key, as most people said, is to buy this season's harvest from a local producer. Always choose a grade B (amber) syrup for more flavour. Light grade A syrup has much less taste. Syrups are graded by their color, not their gustative quality. Too strong a color is not ideal either as it can get bitter.

By the way, we are in the middle of the season now! It is time to head to "la cabane à sucre" if you can! :raz:

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The next two weekends are open house weekends for small-scale artisanal producers in Warren and Washington Counties of New York. Unfortunately, I can't find a link for it.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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To use a viniculture term, there may be some terroir involved but as far as I know, no one has ever documented it.

Some people from UVM and the Vermont Fresh Network are studying that -- there was a piece in the New York Times a while back -- but the notion is a bit controversial.

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Too strong a color is not ideal either as it can get bitter.

According to my relatives -- and my experience backs this up -- too strong a color causes bitterness and off flavors in most batches, but in a few batches it doesn't. The strong-color, strong-flavor, no-bitterness batches are the creme de la creme, the stuff you will likely never fine retail -- not even at farmer's markets. It goes to friends and family pretty much exclusively.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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