Sunday, October 17, 2021

Couture's Maple Shop - Maple Sugar and Maple Syrup taste test

A few weeks ago, Theresa, the kids, and I were fortunate enough to visit Jake and Pauline Couture and their Maple Sugar Farm. They showed us their Sugar House where they boil maple sap to get maple syrup. Attached to their house, just off Vermont Route 100, is the Couture's Maple Shop with a whole bunch of different products they make in their kitchen and sell in their shop. 

I love maple flavor and I'm pretty sure I know who I got that from. My mother! Any time we're getting donuts, her favorite is maple, and anything maple is sure to be delicious. I was super happy that my mother was here so we could do this Maple Sampling taste test together! 

From the Couture's Maple Shop, Theresa and I got over $100 of maple products. I'm sure this is going to be delicious!

And it's not just me and my mother participating in this maple taste test. There's a whole bunch of people in Michigan who enjoy maple as well. 

One of the things we were really excited to taste is Pure Maple Cream. 

It's also been called maple butter and maple spread. Believe it or not, the only ingredient is pure maple syrup. It's been boiled past the 66% sugar content of regular maple syrup and as it is cooling, it's stirred and whipped to form this creamy spread. 

The result is a deliciously smooth butter with a maple flavor.  

Alli - It's great! 
Ty - It reminds me of my grandpa's sorghum and butter mixed together. That's good. 
Amy - I would love that on some toast. 
Ty - It's pretty good just on a spoon. 
Amy - Or ice cream!

Our next sampling will compare the differences between the four different grades of Maple Syrup. They are all classified as Grade A Maple Syrup these days, but they are further categorized into their flavor profiles. Golden and Delicate, Amber and Rich, Dark and Robust, Very Dark and Strong. 

All these syrups are processed the same way. The maple sap harvesting season is only 6 weeks starting in March. At the beginning of the season, the sap that flows is light and delicate. Towards the end of the season, the sap is darker. No matter if it's from the beginning of the season or the end, the water is boiled off until it reaches 66% sugar. The resulting syrup's color is compared to a scale and graded against a standard.

So which is the favorite? There's never a single right answer. Everyone is a little different. Some people like a light delicate maple flavor that is all sweet. As you get towards the other end of the scale, you start to pick up on some more bitter notes. Aubrey suggested that some of them have hints of coffee. Ty and Richard agreed. Abby suggested that real maple syrup has a thinner consistency than the fake stuff. The fake stuff is thicker, but not as flavorful. 
Chi - Maple syrup in general is really tasty and yummy. 
Theresa - Robust and Strong start picking up a burnt flavor. Too roasted. 

The favorites are:
Delicate - Ian, Mickey
Rich - Theresa, Ty, Abby, Rita
Robust - Amy, Don, Richard
Strong - Sheila, Chi, Joe, Jared
All of them - Alli
None - Aubrey

Is the maple cream better than any of the syrups? 
Almost a resounding YES! Abby was the only holdout. 

Now it's time to get to some of the other interesting maple flavors. If you boil of all the moisture from the maple sap, dry it out, you're left with pure maple sugar. It can be substituted 1:1 with white sugar, but it has a delicious maple taste. 
Cotton Candy is a favorite of mine. So much that I even had my own cotton candy machine! So you can make cotton candy out of maple sugar? 

Yep, that's maple flavored cotton candy! It's got a little bit more of a darker, burnt taste to it, likely due to the melting process of making cotton candy. 

Some people just hate any kind of cotton candy. It's a texture thing. Theresa, her dad, and Rita all dislike it for that reason, no matter how good it tastes.
Tyler - If I was going to eat cotton candy, that's the one I would pick. 

Alli - I'll eat it for you mommy. 
That's very kind of you Alli. 

Our next items are Maple Coated Peanuts and Maple Coated Almonds. These are covered in Maple Sugar. 

Take as many as you like, but leave some for someone else. 
Ian - It tastes like nothing. It tastes like a peanut. 
I'm agreeing with you. The peanut does overpower the maple flavor. 
Theresa - I don't take much maple in them, but I like them. 
Aubrey - These are my favorite. 

The almond one smells very mapley. 
It has a stronger maple flavor. 
Tyler - The almonds are very good. 
If you had to choose between the two, which would you pick? 
Richard, Mickey, Aubrey picked the peanuts, while the rest of the table would go for the almonds. 

Jake Couture was making these the day we came to visit and let us try a sample. They were so good we knew we'd need to get a lot to share. 

Maple sap is boiled and dried until it's maple sugar. That maple sugar is poured into these leaf shaped molds. 

Once they are cooled and hardened, maple syrup is poured over them, which creates a moisture barrier. The outside is a slightly crunchy shell, while the inside melts instantly on your tongue. 

Since they are pure maple sugar, they are quite sweet. It's like eating a sugar cube, but with smaller sugar crystals and a delicious maple flavor. It's one of my favorite candies. 
Donald - That would be really good in your coffee in the morning. 
Abby - It's a very strong flavor. 
Rita - I don't think I could eat too much of that. 

I do love hot sauce. Jake said that he made up a batch of this Maple-Fire Hot Sauce earlier that morning. It's made with Maple Syrup, Maple Vinegar, Hot Peppers, Onions, and Garlic. 

They suggest having it on buffalo wings, spare ribs, meat sandwiches, and barbecue. We have none of those, so we're going to be trying this straight. 

It's a tasty enough hot sauce with a heavy emphasis on the garlic and hot peppers. I was told it was hot, but not too hot for my palate. Honestly, I'm having a hard time picking up the maple flavor above anything else. 
Amy - It tastes like the egg roll hot sauce. Like the Sweet Chili Sauce. 
Donald - I would eat that on an egg roll and be a happy man. 
Tyler - I like that a lot. 
Theresa - That tastes good. Kind of like my spicy jalapeno soy sauce. 

Ian - I'm not going to try it. 
Alli is bold and willing to give it a try. 

Alli - It's good. It's pretty good.  
Despite having her hand on it at the ready, she didn't even need to go for her water. 

To finish off our Couture Maple Shop taste test, we're going with a hard candy that we can suck on and enjoy, to keep that maple flavor with us for a little bit longer than a quick taste. 

In order to get it the candy to take on a solid candy form, it needs to be mixed with other sugars. In this case, Liquid Sucrose and Glucose. The resulting candy has a tasty maple flavor. 
Aubrey - Like a maple cough drop. 

If you like maple flavored treats, this was a really was the perfect taste test. Mom said I was only missing a Maple Donut. 
Out of everything, what were the favorites? 

Maple Cream - Rita, Amy, Sheila, Ian, Tyler, Joe
Peanuts - Aubrey, Richard, Donald
Almonds - Abby, Chi
Cotton Candy - Alli 
Pure Maple Candy - Mickey
Rich Maple Syrup - Theresa
Maple-Fire Hot Sauce - Jared

As a last special treat, Donald grabbed something he's been stowing in his fridge for a little while. He was at a bed and breakfast in Tennessee and for breakfast, was served a tasty waffle. He was trying to figure out what made it so good. He tried the waffle by itself and it was just a normal waffle. The butter was a tub of Country Crock. He asked his hostess and was told that it's the maple syrup that makes it so good. It's a bourbon maple syrup and they sell it for $12. He grabbed a jar to take home and now we get to taste it too!

Mmm. Yep, that's pretty delicious too! It adds a complexity to the sweetness! 
Tyler - That's fantastic. 
Mickey - How many proof is that? 
I think we need to have a pancake breakfast and enjoy all these tasty treats!

Update: I can confirm that the maple syrup is delicious on pancakes, and that the maple cream is wonderful on ice cream!

1 comment:

  1. What a variety of maple items to try...everyone definitely had their different favorites. A pancake breakfast sounds like a great idea to try the different maple syrups and maple cream upon!...I think the pancakes and syrup/cream will make a super delicious combination, even better than just tasting the maple syrup/cream alone. I also like Don's idea of placing a maple candy in the morning coffee...flavorful alternative to plain sugar. The hot sauce sounds delicious on egg rolls and chicken. At first glance, the photo of the 4 white spoons with the different syrups looked like 4 boiled eggs cut in half, each with a large but different colored yolk! What a fun maple sugar/syrup taste test (along w/ the bourbon maple syrup) to share with the extended family. EOM