Maple vs. Pancake Syrup: Is It Worth It Extra Money?

New Africa /
New Africa /

The maple syrup season typically starts in February and ends in late April across the Midwest and Northeastern parts of the US. It can only be done with days above freezing and nights below freezing; the season is fickle, and maple harvesters act fast. Boiled down and distilled, authentic maple syrup comes in five grades based on the darkness.

With names that match the color and accompanying description of the flavor, the darker flavors have the full complexity of the maple syrup. Starting with Commercial Grade, this is the darkest and most flavorful of the maple syrup grades. For many, this is the only way to enjoy syrup, and it’s heavily treasured among those who cook or bake with it. It has a thicker consistency, boils off slower, and requires less water for evaporation.

Going down from there, the syrups get thinner and take on slightly fewer notes of other flavors or substances. With the thinner grades comes more transparency and slightly less stickiness. Still a tacky substance at all grades, the biggest thing to remember is the thinner the syrup, the lighter the color, and the weaker the flavor profile.

For many, though, the sticker shock alone makes pancake syrup the choice in their books. A mixture of little more than corn syrup, chemicals, food dyes, and artificial flavors, it doesn’t even pour like maple syrup. Dribbling and oozing from the bottle, it has a mouth feel consistent with a sting of sugar overload. For many, the nostalgia alone of having parents who wouldn’t spring for maple syrup makes it the right choice.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Some can’t justify the added cost.

Yet, those who are fortunate enough to visit a tap house, sugar shack, or maple inn to see the process firsthand and smell that sap boiling never forget it. In smaller operations, hearing the crackling of the wood or the steam rushing out in large-scale operations…it all stays with you. The smell soaks into your clothing, too. At that point, you never return to pancake syrup, and you encourage everyone else you can find to spend the extra dough on maple syrup as well.