Learn about the new grading system while digging in!
By Jann Wiswall
The first of two consecutive maple weekends in New York State starts this weekend, and, if a heaping plate of hot pancakes dripping with real New York maple syrup isn’t a good enough reason to participate, you could also make a point to learn about the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) new maple syrup grading system that went into effect in spring 2014.
Why is there a new system?
According to the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, the adjustment was made at the request of the International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) “to foster or assist in the development of new or expanded markets, and improve the marketing of maple syrup in the U.S. and internationally.”
IMSI, which represents both U.S. and Canadian producers, proposed that the USDA “eliminate inconsistent grade names and nomenclature, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and emphasize the taste of the syrup by including flavor descriptors as well as new color descriptors on the labels for the different classes of syrup.”
Until last year, different U.S. states had different grading systems using Grade “A” or “B” with color descriptors – which also, in some cases, differed from the federal USDA grading systems – while Canada used another.
According to IMSI, using color and “a basic description of taste intensity on the product label would help consumers and ingredient users more consistently purchase syrup in accordance with their taste preferences and needs.”
The new system makes it possible to compare syrups without confusion between terms and meanings.
The new retail classifications are: Grade A “Golden Color, Delicate Taste;” Grade A “Amber Color, Rich Taste;” and Grade A “Dark Color, Robust Taste.”
Commercial grades are now known as Grade A “Very Dark Color, Strong Taste” and “Processing Grade.”
Because most are now referred to as “Grade A,” that term has become ambiguous, so it is best to use the color/taste descriptor to make your selection. Among connoisseurs, the lighter the color the better the quality.
So while you’re making the rounds during Maple Weekends, be sure to ask the experts you meet about the new system, get a taste test and then stock up on your favorites!
The following Cattaraugus County sugarhouses are participating in one or both of this year’s Maple Weekends.
2298 Edmunds Road
Delevan, NY 14042
Maple Weekend Activities: Come visit our sugarhouse and see maple sugaring in action. You can taste samples of the maple products we make. We will have various maple products for sale. Open March 29-30 only.
Maple Glen Sugar House
2266 Gowanda/Zoar Road
Gowanda, NY 14070
Maple Weekend Activities: Paul and Dana Lesefske are presenting a maple-candy making demonstration. You’ll also want to try their famous maple hot dogs and take a tour of its brand new sugarhouse and gift shop.
Moore’s Maple Shack & Pancake House
10444 Galen Hill Road
Freedom, NY 14065
Maple Weekend Activities: The Moore family opens its Pancake House and sugar shack every March through the end of April. Our 5,600-tap maple operation is “n” tubing and man-made vacuum. We use a reverse osmosis unit, a steam-away, and a new high efficiency oil-fired arch. Next to the sugar shack is our pancake house, where we serve all-you-can eat buttermilk pancakes. On Maple Weekend we will have wagon rides to the sugar bush. We will offer samples of our maple products.
Sprague’s Maple Farms
1048 Portville-Obi Road
Portville, NY 14770
Maple Weekend Activities: This year-round, full-service restaurant features breakfast all day and many other menu selections, including our own 100% pure maple syrup. Maple production tours & demonstrations are available in both our authentic old-fashioned sugar house and our state-of-the-art production facility. During Maple Weekend, we will be offering wagon rides (weather permitting) to the sugarhouse for tastings, maple cake donuts, maple cotton candy, and sugar on snow. The gift shop features all our maple products, a large variety of country gift items, and Sprague’s Maple Farm gift cards for use in the restaurant and gift shop.
Wright Farms, Inc
9136 Laidlaw Road
Farmersville, NY 14737
Maple Weekend Activities: Family-owned Wright Farms has been in business since 1840, with five generations of Wrights producing maple syrup and maple products on the farm. Currently there are more than 7,000 taps. A modern sugarhouse containing a 6’x16’ wood fired evaporator with an energy saving steamaway system is used to produce 1,100 to 1,300 gallons of pure maple syrup each year. We will serve jack wax (sugar on snow) throughout the day.
In addition, the Gowanda Fire Hall (230 Aldrich Street) will be serving up pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon and 100% pure New York maple syrup on March 22-23 and 29-30 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost: adults $7.50, children $5.
Maple weekends take place regardless of the weather, so please dress accordingly for your visit. Admission is free; pancake breakfasts are additional. For more information, visit www.mapleweekend.com