Grade B Maple Syrup
By David Wantz, University of Indianapolis
My wife, Susan, and I spent a week this summer in the Adirondacks donating blood to black flies and mosquitoes. Black flies prefer running water; mosquitoes like still water. Wherever we went, there was water: running and still.
So, we decided to head over to Vermont and let others have a chance to feed the wildlife. We stopped at the Vermont Maple Syrup Museum, a mom and pop sort of place run by a woman from Goshen, Indiana. A diorama told the story about how the Indians were the first to collect and boil sap into syrup. Then next scene showed white folks doing the job more efficiently using steel buckets and horses to collect gallons of sap.
Another room further and we learned how a wood-fired evaporator works by relying on specific gravity to separate the condensed syrup from the dilute sap. It still doesn’t make sense to me, but chemistry was not my strong suit in college.
At the end of the tour was a room with bottles of syrup for tasting.
Grade A is the lightest and sweetest, the early draw in the spring. Grade A amber and Grade A dark have gradually more maple flavor to them. It’s what restaurants serve with pancakes. I prefer the Grade B, a thick tree-flavored decantation that is sweet enough, but will not be smothered by any other flavors.
I bought a gallon and had it shipped back to Indiana. It will store in the freezer without freezing. What to do with a gallon of syrup?
A quick search on-line produced three adult beverages whose foundation is Grade B maple syrup. The simplest drink mixes bourbon with Grade B and a little lemon. It’s called a Canadian. Beats me. Bourbon is a Kentucky brew.
A more complex drink is the Jack Rabbit with apple brandy, Grade B, lemon and oranges. Clever, but sort of silly. Even I know not to mix apples and oranges.
My favorite is the Filibuster. An ounce of rye, three-quarters ounce of Grade B, half ounce of lemon, some bitters, and an egg white. Shake them vigorously together with cracked ice and strain into a glass. It’s no strain at all, really. I made a half dozen trying getting it right.
After a few Filibusters even ardent opponents will see things your way. The rye sits in the background, not calling attention to itself, like bourbon does. The lemon and bitters sharpen the mix; the egg whites make it a frothy delight. And the Grade B sweetens without being cloying, its earthiness still evident. It’s a real joy of a cocktail.
Of course, like most refined adult beverages, I find Grade B maple syrup very good when drunk neat.