When purchasing Maple Syrup, if the natural variety is desired look for a label indicating "pure" Maple Syrup. The pure varieties of Maple Syrup are categorized according to color (from light to dark) and flavor, resulting in a designation as either Grade A or Grade B syrups. Early sap that arrives first and therefore, is harvested first is the lightest in color of all syrups. Light amber in appearance, this syrup is classified as Grade A Light Amber or also referred to as Grade A Fancy. Grade A syrups are available as Light, Medium and Dark Amber syrups with flavors that increase from mellow to rich tasting as the color darkens, since it is the darkest varieties that are strongest in flavor. Grade A Light and Medium Amber syrup is typically used for making candies, confection toppings, ice cream flavorings, and other mild flavored sweets. The darker colored Grade A syrups (Medium to Dark Amber) are commonly served as table syrups in restaurants and homes. The darkest colored Grade A, which has a fairly dark amber color, can be used as a table syrup, providing a distinctive maple flavor to pancakes, waffles, French toast, and other foods that are commonly dressed with a sweet topping. Grade B syrups have a stronger maple flavor with a much darker coloring and are used almost exclusively for cooking, especially for a wide variety of baked goods and sweets.
When serving, Maple Syrup is often warmed to enhance the flavor of cooked foods. To warm, pour the Maple Syrup into a heat proof serving pitcher and place the container with syrup in one to two inches of simmering water. Simmer until the syrup has been warmed thoroughly and then serve immediately. To store, keep unopened maple syrup in a dry area away from sunlight where it will keep for one or two years. Once the syrup is opened, it should be kept refrigerated and consumed within 6 to 8 months. Since Maple Syrup contains moisture, it will begin to mold soon after being opened if it is not refrigerated. Pure Maple Syrup should be stored in a glass or a plastic container. Avoid storing Maple Syrup in metal containers, which may affect the taste and color as the metal and syrup interact with age. Freezing maple syrup allows it to be kept for very long periods of time.