Vermont maple syrup is seen by many people as some of the best in the world, and as the largest producer in the country, it ought to be. One of the best things about spring in Vermont is the opportunity to see, and taste, fresh syrup as it's being made. Once the sap starts to run, maple sugaring season in Vermont gives visitors the chance to try all the delicious varieties of syrup that the state's many sugar farms produce.
"Wait a minute," you might be saying. "I didn't know that there were different kinds of maple syrup! I thought it was all the same thing." To the surprise of many, syrup is an intricate and multi-faceted product with a richness and complexity that - dare we say it - rivals that of wine or fine cheese. And though gaining a true appreciation for the flavors within a great syrup can take many seasons of practice, even beginner syrup fans (no, we don't call them saps) can appreciate the differences between the grades of maple syrup.
The first grade of Vermont maple syrup is called "Grade A Light Amber," and is known for its sweet, light flavor with only hints of maple and smoky sugars. This is generally the first type of syrup a Vermont sugarhouse produces each year, coming from trees tapped early in the season. Also known as "Vermont Fancy," this type of syrup is best enjoyed as a mix in cocktails or tea, over ice cream, or even poured on a simple handful of fresh snow.
The next grade of syrup is "Grade A Medium Amber," and it's likely this is what you think of when you hear the words "maple syrup." Perfect over pancakes, waffles, or any other food you can imagine, Medium Amber is known for its bolder maple flavor and buttery-smooth texture.
After Medium Amber, comes "Grade A Dark Amber" -- a favorite among true Vermont maple syrup addicts. Featuring a dark, rich maple bouquet and robust flavor, this syrup is often likened to dark honey, aged bourbon, or (for those with less of a love for maple) cough syrup. Great for baking, though it's also often found on pancakes and other breakfast foods.
The final grade, simply known as "Grade B," is traditionally reserved for baking, cooking, or to add flavor to other foods. Its pronounced maple flavor, thick texture and overall intensity make it a common choice for maple recipes, cookies or pies, but much less so on pancakes or ice cream. However, true aficionados of Vermont maple syrup -- to whom there's no such thing as too much maple -- use it like any other variety, and appreciate it for its complexity and hearty flavor.
If you want to try any of these varieties firsthand, southern Vermont has a wide variety of activities available for maple lovers. The annual Whitingham Maple Festival takes place just a few miles south of Wilmington, Vermont. With tastings, sugarhouse tours, and plenty of different Vermont maple syrup recipes, you'll surely find something sweet to enjoy.
Or, you could simply stay with us in one of our long-term rental houses, and shop around the local country stores and sugar farms in the area. After all, with such a huge variety of syrups here in southern Vermont, it could take a while to try them all.