Up in the far-flung regions of the interior Northeast, magic occurs in snow-covered forests most us not dare enter between the months of November and March. The funny thing is, most of our year-round breakfasts depend on this region for that added morning sweetness that sets off any morning American staple from bacon to pancakes to waffles. We’re speaking of course about maple syrup, everyone’s favorite topping, that comes exclusively from these bone-chilling latitudes encompassing New England – home of the sugar maple tree.
In fact, just last year, the region produced over 3.78 million gallons of maple syrup for our delight – though unfortunately most of us probably missed out due to either our ignorance of true maple syrup or lack of access to the good stuff. Needless to say, it’s time to put away the Mrs. Buttersworth in favor for the finer things in life, opening your eyes and taste buds to the magic these maple syrups outlined below can offer. Trust us, you’ll be grateful here in the near future while enjoying a short stack, a couple pieces of thick hickory smoked bacon, and a hot cup of coffee on a brisk winter’s morning.
Fadden’s Maple Syrup
As a true-blue Mom and Pop operation out of New Hampshire, Faddens Maple Sugarhouse was first established back in 1896 when the family first settled in the region and began producing maple syrup to trade for supplies. Today, they have over 7,500 taps connected across 17 miles and produce over 2,500 gallons of maple syrup annually. They offer all light, or medium amber Grade A syrup with darker grades available on a limited basis.
Runamok Maple Sugarmaker’s Cut
They don’t call it Sugarmaker’s Cut for nothing. This is the best of the best – traditionally set aside for the sugarmaker himself – but now made available to us. Basically, each grade of syrup is collected at a different time during the season, so when the flavors are just right (i.e. peaking) it’s considered the prime cut for the taking. Needless to say, Sugarmaker’s Cut is available in multiple batches each year. This one, in particular, is certified organic Grade A: Amber Color harvested in Audubon Vermont.
Crown Maple Syrup
Looking to set the new royal standard for maple syrup, Crown Maple utilizes what they call breakthrough processing techniques to deliver some of the purest product around. For them, sap is harvested from the Taconic Hardwood forest that extends from the Mid-Hudson Valley to Western Vermont. They offer light, medium amber and dark maple syrups that are both pure and organic and are available single purchase or as a complete set.
Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup
For over seven generations the Coombs Family Farm has the produced some of the tastiest 100% pure maple syrup around from they legacy maple trees that are never over-tapped or sprayed with pesticides. All their syrup is also certified organic, available in all Grade A versions, and will certainly keep you from ever going back to the fake stuff.
Understanding The Maple Syrup Grading System
In order to delineate the different flavor and color classifications of maple syrup, the USDA recently overhauled the grading system help differentiate multiple strata of maple syrups without confusing the customer into thinking certain grades were inferior. For reference, the old system was divided into A, B, and C classifications. Now, however, we have four types of A classifications. We’ve outlined them in more detail below. Keep in mind though that these grades only refer to pure maple syrup, not the corn-syrup based Aunt Jemima brands you find in the grocery store.
Grade A: Golden Color / Light Taste: This is the lightest of the bunch and the syrup that’s often tapped first during the sugaring season (often around the end of February) Here, its best served with light meals such as oatmeal, fresh fruit or yogurt.
Grade A: Amber Color / Full Taste: Amber maple syrup is most likely what you’re pouring over pancakes and waffles in the morning. It’s a bit darker, but still golden – ideal for French toast as well as other baked goods should your care to up the sweetness.
Grade A: Dark Color / Sweet and Robust Taste: Formally considered Grade B, this darker and more robust maple syrup boasts nutty flavors that resemble brown sugar. With this grade, try glazing a Christmas ham, marinating meat before grilling, or even use it in a cold-weather whiskey cocktail.
Grade A: Very Dark / Strong Taste: Often opaque, it’s here we find the strongest tasting maple syrup of the bunch – so dark in fact that it’s easily confused with molasses. It’s less sweet however and more packed with maple flavorings than the sweet notes of its predecessors.
PappyCo Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
Functioning as traditional maple syrup with a bit of southern charm – and by southern charm we mean bourbon. That’s right, PappyCo sources their real maple syrup from Bissel Maple Farm and then ages the breakfast treat in bourbon barrels before making it readily available to connoisseurs such as you and I. Perfect for anything from pancakes to cocktails.
For those looking for a fine dark amber maple syrup, Uncle Luke’s is a great treat. Here, we find a breakfast essential that resembles molasses but with a rich caramel flavor and offers a nice toasty element as well. Granted, the dark amber grade isn’t for everyone, but if you have a hankering for something different and unique, this is a great place to start.
Bushwick Kitchen Trees Knees
Straight from Brooklyn, NY, Bushwick Kitchen adds that bit of artisan flavor we were looking for when putting this list together. With this trio, choose from a spicy maple, gingerbread maple or even coffee maple syrup made with Stumptown coffee. It’s all handmade in their warehouse in New York and sure to jazz up any breakfast for the better.
Hidden Springs Organic Maple Syrup
Based on a farm up in Putney, Vermont Hidden Springs take pride in producing 100% natural and organic maple syrup tapped right from their family farms that expand over 1,000 acres in the interior Northeast. And just like any proper sugarhouse, Hidden Springs offers all grades of maple syrup in sizes ranging from a half pint to a gallon.
Kitchen Essentials For The Home Cook
You’ll need more than just maple syrup when cooking up a morning meal for the fam. In that case, be sure to check out these home kitchen essentials to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients to get the job done right.