The last few weeks I have experimented with many summery desserts. For our own consumption – our house is like a guest house right now, family and friends from various continents and countries are coming and going, in exchange for “free board and lodging” they have no choice but to taste and critique my creations.
But also because I want to demonstrate to you the many choices you have to eat a healthy diet that includes a sweet treat. Now and then.
There are many options for natural sweeteners, and one of my favorite ones is pure Maple Syrup. Why? Because it is a true whole food, and if you get the real stuff it is the least processed of all.
- Tap the bark of the maple tree.
- Let the natural syrup flow out all by itself, at this stage a clear, almost tasteless liquid.
- Boil the liquid to concentrate the sugar. This ensures the flavor and deep color of the resulting syrup.
It being a whole food, it is chock full of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron, but especially high in
- Manganese – an important trace mineral required by a number of enzymes in our bodies that play key roles in energy production and antioxidant defenses. 2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup provide nearly 40% of the daily value
- Zinc – again our enzymes embrace this mineral with open arms as it is critical for a healthy overall immune system, cell repair and growth, in particular when it comes to wound healing. It is also important for skin health & especially helpful in combating acne
Next question I always get: Is Grade B – the more expensive one – really better?
Let me dispel a myth here. If you think Grade B Maple Syrup is less refined and thus the better choice, listen up. The ONLY difference between Grade A and Grade B Maple Syrup is the COLOR and TASTE. They are both produced in exactly the same way, and pure Maple Syrup is not refined at all. Maple-flavored syrup however is, this is not pure maple syrup and is a processed and refined product usually also with added refined sugar, often in the form of unhealthy high fructose corn syrup. Not to be compared with a whole food product like pure maple syrup!
The difference in in color is a result of when the syrup is harvested. An early spring harvest produces a lighter colored syrup, as it gets warmer the sap coming from the trees becomes darker in color, and less sugary, resulting in a darker syrup. The darker the syrup, the stronger the flavor.
In the last years grading standards for Maple Syrup have been revised since a 2010 petition from the International Maple Syrup Institute, representing the maple producers in Canada and the US (Vermont and NY state), asked for a simpler system to avoid confusing the consumer. And also to catch up with international standards.
The Grade B classification will be phased out over time – a voluntary move – and replaced by just Grade A but with more descriptive 4 color and flavor categories:
- Golden delicate taste – best eaten raw, as in drizzled over pancakes
- Amber rich taste
- Dark robust taste
- Very dark strong taste – best used in baking or cooking
Vermont and Maine producers have already begun adopting this revised grading system in 2014, so look out for changed labeling on their products.
So where does this leave you? I can hear you asking me why I sometimes have “preferred grade B” in my printed recipes. Rest assured, simply because of the richer taste, different consistency when used in baking and cooking, and of course less sugar content, even if it is only a slight reduction.
In future if you see “dark” or “very dark” on the label, it is the equivalent of the previous Grade B Maple Syrup. You decide which taste and color you prefer, and for what use you are buying this delectable liquid. For drizzling or baking…I have both at home.
RECIPE TO SHARE
Here is our winning recipe this summer, the all-out favorite! And the good thing is you don’t need to have an ice cream maker for this one, just pouring the mix into a freezer-safe glass container works just as good.
- 1 cup water
- ⅓ cup loose green-tea leaves (alternatively use 3 tea bags, Mighty Leaf is an excellent brand)
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 cups mango, fresh or frozen
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- Infuse the green tea in hot (no longer boiling) water for 5 minutes. Add maple syrup or agave nectar. Cool completely.
- Pour tea and mangos into blender and blend until smooth and creamy
- Pour mixture into an ice-cream / sorbet maker and follow instructions OR just pour into a glass container and freeze.
Source: Adapted from “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen” by Annette Ramke & Kendall Scott