Friday, December 10, 2010

Homemade Maple Sugar

 I have a bottle of grade B and grade A dark amber maple syrups.  So what does that really mean?  Well, let's figure this out.

All maple syrup in the U.S. is graded into 4 groups:
  • Grade A - Light Amber has a delicate maple flavor and is made from the first sap run of the season
  • Grade A - Medium Amber has a mild maple flavor and is the most popular for table use
  • Grade A - Dark Amber has a full-bodied maple flavor and is used for table use and cooking
  • Grade B -  has a hearty, robust maple flavor and is darker than Grade A - Dark Amber and is primarily used in cooking (also considered commercial grade)
So which one should you buy?  Whatever you can find or are you picky about it?  It is all a matter of taste and what it is going to be used for.  All of the Grade As are good as a table syrup like on pancakes or oatmeal.  The Grade A - Dark Amber and Grade B are best for cooking, but the Grade B imparts the most intense maple flavor.  Vermont standards are a bit different than the U.S. standards because they boil their syrups longer for a thicker consistency.  Canadian standards are basically the same as the U.S. but are named differently.

               US Grade                             =                     Canadian Grade
               Grade A Light Amber                                       #1 Extra Light
               Grade A Medium Amber                                           #1 Light
               Grade A Dark Amber                                            #1 Medium
               Grade B                                                                    #2 Amber
               Grade B                                                                       #3 Dark

I never really understood the grades until I moved up east.  I mostly thought about it in the flavor of the syrup that I wanted for pancakes or waffles.  In PA I find maple syrups in farmers markets, local markets, art shows, local businesses and of course the grocery store just to name a few.  One thing I have a hard time finding is maple sugar and when I do it is very expensive.  From $10.00 to $20.00 a pound seems expensive to me and is only a little over 2 cups.  The process of turning maple syrup into sugar is heating or boiling the syrup to 290 to 300 degrees just to the hard crack stage.  Then stirring it in a specialized machine or heavy duty mixer which gets more of the moisture out and creates crystals.  It is then sifted and/or grated to a crystal form like sugar.  The process of making maple sugar has to be carefully done and since it is reduced by removing water it has a more concentrated flavor than syrup.  It is possible to do this at home but candy/sugar making can test your kitchen skills getting it right and mixing the sugar crystals in a home mixer may be the last task it takes on.
So why not make maple sugar the same way you would make brown sugar in a pinch.  It is not the same as true maple sugar but it sure is tasty.

 For brown sugar, the ratio is

1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of sugar for light brown sugar 
and 
2 tablespoon of molasses to 1 cup of sugar for dark brown sugar.  

Mix it together with a spoon.  How easy is that?!  It is a great trick when you notice at the last minute that you are out of brown sugar.

For faux maple sugar made with real maple syrup, I would use the same ratios of a Grade A Dark Amber or Grade B (my preference) maple syrup to sugar.  Keep in mind this sugar is on the sweeter side and less is more.

1 tablespoon to 1 cup of white granulated sugar for light maple sugar
and
2 tablespoons to 1 cup of white granulated sugar for a darker or more intense maple sugar

How do I use mine?  It can replace brown sugar in a recipe to change up the flavors like oatmeal cookies.  My family uses it on their oatmeal and anything they would add sugar to.  I use it in toppings and streusels.  I can't wait to try this for the sugar coating on ginger snaps or sugar cookies.  The flavor is not as intense as true maple sugar, I am fine with that.  It is kinda like using vanilla sugar.  And speaking of vanilla sugar, why not put a vanilla bean in the maple sugar. 

For vanilla sugar, put a split vanilla bean in 2 cups of sugar and allow it to infuse the sugar for two weeks  or if you are in a hurry chop the vanilla bean into small pieces, place into a food processor with the sugar.  Process until the bean is incorporated = instant vanilla sugar!

For maple vanilla sugar just add maple syrup as directed above to vanilla sugar.  Lovely stuff.  Might make a nice gift for some really special someone.  Now refrain from eating this with a spoon.  It is seriously good.
 I put it in a glass jar and shake it before using.  Shaking breaks up any clumps that may have formed.

My last point here is that faux maple sugar will act like brown sugar and get hard on you.  Making it in small batches is a good idea or as much as you need.  If it does get hard, gently warm it (not over a stove burner, maybe in a microwave for very short bursts) by setting it in a warm place in the kitchen and stirring until it has softened and is granulated again!

NOTE:  Place in an air tight container.  I left mine unopened for an hour and it hardened up but when I kept it in a sealed mason jar it stays like sugar.  I shook it up and it was fine.  It is much, much slower to clump and harden in a sealed container.  Using a mason jar makes it easy to shake it up before using. Also make in small batches.

15 comments:

  1. I love vanilla sugar, so I know I would love this too. And combining the two, what a great idea. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Rivki - Any thing you would use brown sugar in but it would give maple flavor. I love it in oatmeal with bananas or as a light topping for muesli. Sprinkled over french toast or in oatmeal cookies. If you use sugar in your coffee? why not! You could also use it in place of cinnamon sugar (or add cinnamon) on toast. A small shaker of maple, cinnamon, vanilla sugar sounds like a plan!

    Thank you for the comments.

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  3. I love this post. I bookmarked it to come back when I actually have the time to make this!! Thank you!

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  4. This is so creative and sounds delicious too!

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  5. What a genius idea! You are so creative :)

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  6. This is GREAT! I've made vanilla sugar before, but never maple sugar. Being from New England, I think this is AWESOME! :)

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  7. Thanks for the detailed explanation of the differences between the different grades of Maple syrup. Here in IL, we can't be too picky, because we don't have a lot of maple syrup farms.
    Now, in a pinch, I can make my own:)

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  8. Such a great idea--this is going on my homemade gift list. Love it.

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  9. Maple vanilla sugar sounds like the best thing ever! Can't wait to try this out!

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  10. Glad you all liked it. I have just loved it on my muesli in the morn. I actually make the pumpkin cheesecake with this.

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  11. I'm way late to the party, but wondering if you were looking for a more intense maple flavor without adding too much liquid if it'd make sense to add a touch of maple extract to the lot? Anyone tried this?

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