Vohn’s Vittles

victuals, vittles, food: my cooked-from-scratch recipes using natural ingredients

How maple syrup is made and a review of Clarks

Hello dear reader,

Do you like maple syrup?  It’s something I rarely eat, as I tend to find it too sweet, but a while ago I was sent a set by Clarks to review.

Clarks maple syrup

You might be thinking, oh lordy, why are you telling us this in healthy-eating January but you’ll be pleased to hear that maple syrup has been proven to have many health benefits and is now classed as a “superfood”. It is lower in calories than sugar; includes important nutrients such as manganese, zinc, iron, calcium and potassium; and can help protect the immune system, settle digestion, and help a whole host of other problems.

Do you know how maple syrup is made?

Farmers collect sap from the maple tree, using spouts pushed directly into the tree. Historically the sap was collected drop by drop in buckets hung from the spout and then, once full, the bucket was emptied into a barrel.

traditional maple syrup

Photo sourced from montrealgazette.com

Nowadays the sap is collected via a large network of tubes, which transport the sap to one central point.

modern maple syrup

Photo sourced from NYTimes.com

The sap is then boiled to evaporate the water, leaving clear maple syrup.  It takes 400g of sap to make 100g of pure maple syrup.

Most species of maple exude sap but the sugar maple, Acer saccharum, is the one most commonly used for the production of maple syrup. Doesn’t it look fabulous in autumn, or should I say fall?!

acer saccharum

Sugar maple photo sourced from Over the Garden Fence

Maple sap can be harvested from about February to May. The first harvest produces the lightest and most delicately flavoured maple syrup whilst the last harvest produces a dark maple syrup which is so strong in flavour that it can only really be used as an ingredient in other food products.

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Clarks UK Ltd are a family firm based in Newport in Wales. They pride themselves in using the best ingredients which are then blended in small batches to produce top quality products, which retain their natural goodness and flavour. They are called master syrupeers – I love that word “syrupeers”!

Clarks source their maple syrup from small independent farmers in the Quebec area of Canada.  They select mid-season maple syrup and produce two pure maple syrup products. The no.1 medium grade, which is the one considered to be true maple syrup in Canada, and the no.2 amber grade, which is a bit darker in colour and richer in maple syrup taste.

Clarks pure maple syrup

Clarks Original maple syrup is a blend of pure Canadian maple syrup and carob fruit syrup.

Clarks original maple syrup

Carob fruit comes from the Mediterranean carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua, which is a member of the pea family. It is actually the dried pod which is used to make carob fruit syrup.

carob fruit

Carob pods – photo sourced from carobfruit.com

So, what did we think of Clarks maple syrups?

First of all I love that their products are completely natural, with no nasty unnecessary additives in sight.  I also like that they are supporting small-scale farmers.

As to the taste test – well, I chose a weekend when boy was coming to stay so we could have a child’s point of view too. We had great fun making up a big batch of pancakes together for our taste testing session. The results were interesting…

I didn’t particularly like the no.1 medium grade, finding it too sweet and reminding me of my dislike of maple syrup’s sweetness. The no. 2 amber grade, however, I really liked. The richer depth of maple flavour in this one balances out the sweetness and I had several helpings of this one. The Clarks original I wasn’t keen on, as the fruity carob flavour just didn’t seem to mesh with the maple flavour for me.

Vohns favourite

Mr Vohn thought the two pure maples syrups were OK but he really liked the Clarks original, delighting in the sweet fruity Carob flavour.

Mr Vohn's favourite

Boy (aged 7) liked all of them. After many tastings of each he eventually decided that his favourite was the no. 2 amber grade, as evidenced by him pouring half the bottle over his last pancake. Mr Vohn was not amused and this wasn’t helped at all by me just standing by laughing!

Boys favourite

So, the pancake results were two for the no. 2 amber grade and one for the Clarks original with carob. Some time later I tried them in my coffee and I am sticking firmly with the no. 2 amber grade. It gives such a rich depth of maple flavour but is not too sweet.

Thank you so much to Clarks for sending me the products to review. We had a lovely morning doing our taste testing and I shall be using maple syrup more regularly, now that I have found one that I like.

Vohn

x

P.S. Clarks maple syrups are available now in most supermarkets. Ideal for drizzling over your pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, which in 2014 is on the 4th of March.

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