Sweet, rich-tasting, pure maple syrup is made from the boiled and reduced sap of the sugar maple tree, which thrives in the cold climates of the northeastern United States and Canada. Excellent over pancakes and waffles, maple syrup also makes a delicious glaze for pork, poultry, and vegetables, and can be used to flavor frosting, puddings, cakes, and pies.
Maple syrup is graded according to its color and flavor: the darker the color, the stronger the flavor. The lightest syrup is Grade A amber, called "fancy" in Vermont. It has the most delicate flavor of any maple syrup and is the most expensive. These are followed by slightly darker and stronger-flavored Grade A medium amber and Grade A dark amber. Syrups graded B and C have the darkest color and most assertive flavor; they are often used for baking and cooking. When buying maple syrup, look for the word pure on the label. If it's not there, you're probably buying corn syrup with maple flavoring.
Once opened, maple syrup should be kept in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 1 year.
To liquefy crystallized maple syrup, gently heat the bottle of syrup in a pan of hot water over low heat until the crystals dissolve. IF the container is plastic, transfer to a glass jar or heatproof bowl before heating in hot water. you can also heat the container in a microwave oven on medium power for 10 to 15 seconds.
If your syrup develops a thin layer of mold on the surface, it is harmless. Simply remove it, or strain it out with a fine-mesh sieve. Then, bring the strained syrup to a boil. Store in a clean jar or bottle. To stop drips on a syrup pitcher, dab the inside of the spout with butter, or rub it with a piece of waxed paper. And if you need to keep syrup bottles from getting sticky, simply wipe them clean with a towel soaked in hot water after each use.
When chilled, maple syrup becomes thicker and the flavor is milder. For more flavor, bring the syrup to room temperature before using; it will be thinner in texture but deeper in flavor. Better yet, warm it over low heat in a saucepan or in a microwave oven.
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