The Facts on Syrups: A Sappy Story

With maple syrup shortages being seen at grocery stores, it is a good time to learn about other tree syrups and maybe “branch out”.  The sap or bark of over 20 tree species can be transformed into edible syrups.  Birch syrup is produced in Vermont, and it has a bold, tangy flavor that can complements both sweet and savory dishes. Hickory syrup is popular in some states and has spicy notes and was first used during the pioneer days. Beech trees distill syrup that tastes similar to molasses but can be difficult to find. Palm syrup can be tapped from a variety of palm trees including coconut.  It is widely used in Southeast Asia and has a brown sugar taste.  There are also rare syrups like sycamore, walnut, and pine that are edible and unique.

Maple syrup remains the most popular syrup used in the United States and Canada.  However, it can be easy to confuse pancake syrup with maple syrup.  Most pancake syrups don’t even contain maple syrup.  The only sure way to tell if a syrup contains maple syrup is to read the label. There are strict regulations for maple syrup, and it is made from maple sap that has been boiled down to a syrup containing only the one ingredient. In the U.S. maple syrup is regulated by the FDA via strict standards of identity and labeling requirements. It is available in a variety of grades including amber and golden.

Pancake syrup is different and made by using cheaper and more accessible ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum, caramel color, and artificial sugars. Due to the use of these ingredients, pancake syrup is often thicker.

There is also maple-flavored syrup which is basically corn syrup with maple flavoring.  Per FDA this product is required to contain only two percent maple syrup so long as it is not labeled as “pure maple syrup”.  Other than the label, the main discernible difference among these types of syrups is cost with pure maple syrup obviously being the most expensive.

Need to discuss this and other issues around food standards of identity, labeling and other questions? Talk to our experts.

Picture Credit Susanne Kuehne 

Posted on 20 January 2022