Maple Syrup: Clarifying the Color Amber

Just in time for the heavy breakfast season of winter, the State of Vermont is trying to ease the national confusion about maple syrup. The largest maple syrup producing state proposes to re-write the labeling of syrup so we all know what it is we are pouring on our pancakes.

Changing the grades is serious business. This fall Vermont is holding public hearings, not about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, but about how best to describe maple syrup.

Sources close to the tap say the grading system should be clarified and made uniform among syrup producing regions. The Vermont Agriculture Department points out that the two largest producers of maple syrup, Vermont and Canada, have different rating systems. As you might expect, Vermont’s top grade has a different name from the Canadian because it is called “Vermont Fancy”. That’s followed by “Vermont Grade A Light Amber”, “Grade A Medium Amber” and “Grade A Dark Amber.”

Note that Vermont’s fourth rated syrup is still “Grade A.” They also have a “Grade B” and “Commercial”, which is recommended for cooking. That, by the way, is contrary to the common wisdom of cooking with wine, which holds that you shouldn’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink.

The Canadians don’t have a grade that starts with “Vermont” or “Fancy”. But they do have a “Grade B Amber”, which is actually darker than their “Grade A Dark Amber”. Evidently dark is not dark unless it’s Grade B dark. Maine has a “Fancy, U.S. Grade A Light Amber”, which is almost as many titles as an African dictator.

An operation in Connecticut sells a “Grade A Medium Pure” which is like being a “Medium Virgin”.

The syrup producers also like to label their stuff by state, as if they are the wine-growing regions of France. “New York Grade A Light Amber” is their Chateau Lafite of syrup.

Of course most people know nothing about maple syrup. Millions of Americans believe Log Cabin and Aunt Jemima are maple syrup.  Log Cabin bills itself as “Authentic Flavored Syrup”. Authentic what? The word “maple” isn’t on the label and nothing maple is in the bottle.

Aunt Jemima, which also has no maple syrup in it, has a multi-tiered grading system of its own: Original, Lite, Butter Rich, Butter Lite, Country Rich and Country Rich Lite.  “Butter Rich”,  has no actual butter, only “natural butter flavor”. “Country Rich Lite” seems to have broken new ground with being both “Rich” and “Lite”. But nowhere on the label does it say, “Nothing Maple About It!”

So you can imagine the confusion at the farm stand when people buy maple syrup. A new grading system might simply be “Vermont Grade One” then “Two”, “Three” and “Four”. Or, Grades A through D. Maybe even “Best”, “Good”, “Not As Good” and “Not Fit for Waffles”. But to make things crystal, Vermont proposes a ratings system that goes as follows:

-Grade A Golden Delicate Taste.

-Grade A Amber Rich Taste

-Grade A Dark Robust Taste

-Grade A Very Dark Strong Taste”

All four grades are “A”. Eliminated are “Grade B” and “Commercial”. Nothin’ but Grade A stuff comin’ from Vuhmahnt.  You could probably scramble the bottles on the shelf and few people would know which was the top and bottom grade.

The Vermont Ag department claims it wants to educate syrup lovers about exactly what grade of maple syrup they’re buying. So when the re-labeling is done, we can be sure that Vermont’s maple syrup grades will be absolutely clear, or at least one of several pleasing shades of amber.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Page Two

Jaw Meet Floor

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Small President

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Cuba Diaries

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Alphabet of Maladies

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Healthcare Confusion Act

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Freedom from Speech

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Too Big to Fire

Friday, June 19, 2015

More Probable Than Not

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Been Said

"One of the things that actually Trump has benefited from is that, on a daily if not hourly basis, there are things he says that you could never have imagined any other American president -- left, right, up or down -- saying, and they kind of bleed into each other. And you sort of forget, 'Oh, yes, 72 hours ago, he said this...'"

-Jeff Greenfield on CNN’s "Reliable Sources"

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