Mother's Day is on Sunday and we're betting your brunch table will have some form of maple syrup on it. Here's what you need to know before you pour.
The Current Pickle
If you have any Aunt Jemima frozen products in your kitchen – TOSS ‘EM! Yuuuuuuge recall happening RN on AJ frozen breakfast foods across North America with any and all Best By dates. Oodles of waffles, pancakes, French toasts: all recalled after manufacturer Pinnacle Foods discovered listeria in certain factories (and now many items have been discontinued; they weren't selling well anyway).
The AJ syrup line is not affected by the recall. It's worth noting their familiar squeezey bottles read "syrup" because they contain mostly corn syrup. Almost all syrups that read "pancake syrup," "waffle syrup," or "maple-flavored syrup" contain little to no actual maple. According to a taste test, Americans now seem trained to prefer the fake stuff. This puts us in a pickle, because in addition to corn syrup, you're getting artificial coloring, flavorings, and additives, which according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have been linked to leukemia and other cancers. (ಠ_ಠ)
Like most things, we recommend buying the real stuff. Maple syrup is actually sap from a maple tree that's been boiled down to concentrate and caramelize the sugars, giving it its characteristic color and flavor. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, and baby, that stuff is big business. We're talking $1,300 a barrel – 26 times more expensive than crude oil – big. At least that was the market rate back in 2016 when Vanity Fair published this jaw-dropping report on the Canadian maple "cartel" FPAQ – which controls 72% of the world market and seems to set prices (TLDR: $13M maple syrup + great Canadian heist = prison + fines).
Is it healthy for me? While maple syrup DOES have more minerals than other sweeteners like honey, sugar, and brown sugar, it's still mostly sugar, not a multivitamin. Here's a chart that shows you what you're getting in a ¼-cup serving of each:
What’s the Dillio with the Grading?
Buh-bye Grade B. Until standards changed in 2015, maple syrups were labeled "Grade A” and “Grade B.” This led consumers to believe that A was somehow better than B, or that B had more minerals than A, neither of which is true. Grading is based on color and flavor alone:
So which one do I buy? Purchase according to your tastebuds, and in case you don’t want to taste through tens of bottles to find your fave, Consumer Reports has done it for you, with price comparisons across brands. Key takeaway: higher price is NOT an indication of flavor or quality. Trader Joe’s, 365 Brands, and Kirkland were three house brands that ranked at or near the top!
Our Pickle Picks include Langdon Wood, Crown Maple and Runamok Maple, and we have a use for every maple – Golden’s great on morning yogurt, Amber’s a solid addition to a cheese board, Dark is perfect on roasted veggies and in bourbon cocktails, and Very Dark is our choice for sweet and savory dishes with stronger flavors (think roasted meats and buckwheat pancakes).
The Hot Pickle
This weekend, whip up some easy-breezy, delicious, listeria-free 2-ingredient pancakes for the mom in your life (or the love of your life…or, you know, just a giant stack for yourself) and serve ‘em with the real stuff…bonus points for warming the syrup!