Maple Syrup: A Perfect Low FODMAP Sweetener
The FODMAP Everyday® offices and Test Kitchen are smack dab in the midst of New England in Massachusetts and this is maple syrup country!
Thankfully, maple syrup is low FODMAP and we take advantage in both sweet as well as savory baking and cooking.
Maple syrup comes from maple trees, which are plentiful around here. Vermont and areas of Canada are also huge maple syrup producers. In late winter and early spring when the nighttime temperatures dip down to the 20s and the daytime temperatures are in the 40s (Fahrenheit), the maple trees will be tapped.
Some folks even tap the trees in their own backyards. The simplest way is to tap the tree and set a bucket underneath to collect the sap, as seen above. More sophisticated systems will use taps and hoses which flow to one main hose that connects several trees, such as in the image below.
And yet another way is a hybrid of these two with each tree tapped with its own hose that empties into a bucket or even a bag hanging from the bark to collect the sap. The sap flow also reacts to atmospheric pressure in addition to temperature. When the pressure inside the trees is greater than externally, the sap will flow well.
Once the sap is collected it has to be boiled down and it takes 40 quarts of sap to make just 1 quart of maple syrup, which is why it can be pricey.
Maple Syrup vs. Pancake Syrup
It should go without saying that we are talking about pure maple syrup here. There is no other ingredient other than “maple syrup”. There are many syrups that kind of look the same called “pancake syrup” and these are loaded with other sugars, often high FODMAP high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), so not only are these not nearly as delectable and maple-y, but they would also be high in FODMAPS. Steer clear. They are not worth the calories, as far as we’re concerned.
Maple Grades & Colors
Maple syrup comes in different grades and colors and they each have their own flavor profile. In general the darker it is, the more robust the flavor. Some are very pale, light golden liquid and some is as dark as molasses.
Canada produces quite a lot and until fairly recently the U.S. and Canada used different grading systems, which was not helpful to the consumer. In 2014 a transition took place to create a universal system. You can see in the image below what the old labeling was on the right, and what the new labeling and language is on the left.
The issue was that “Grade B” sounded like it was sub-par, when that was not the case. I actually like the darker colored and flavored maple syrups for baking for their more pronounced maple flavor. But they are all delicious and can be enjoyed in moderation while on the low FODMAP diet.
Monash designates a low FODMAP serving as 2 (Australian) tablespoons, or 50 g.
“Flavored” Maple Syrup
Several years ago at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC I came across a new treatment for maple syrup. Producers were getting experimental and aging the maple syrup in bourbon or whiskey casks. The ingredient is still just maple syrup and is non-alcoholic but the heady aromas in the wood of the casks becomes infused within the maple syrup. These are incredible flavor experiences that we heartily recommend.
Runamok Maple of northern Vermont not only offers both bourbon and whiskey barrel aged maple syrups but also a smoked version, which is absolutely incredible in savory recipes and cocktails. Again, the ingredients are just pure maple syrup. They even have a rum barrel aged version, and since rum is off limits for FODMAPers, we are intrigued since there is no rum proper in the syrup. We haven’t tried this one yet but are looking forward to checking it out. Bissell Maple Farms has their own version as well, in really decorative bottles (see below) that make a fantastic host gift.
How to Buy and Store
At the Test Kitchen we like to buy ours in bulk, as it is often the most economical and we recommend it if you have access. At the very least, always read the label. You should be buying pure maple syrup with no additional ingredients.
Store refrigerated in an airtight container, preferably glass or plastic, once opened. It will last a while – some say a year, others say indefinitely. Taste it. It should taste like pure maple with no fermented qualities, in which case it has gone bad, but this is very rare if it is uncontaminated.
FODMAP Everyday® Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup: Sweet & Savory
We think you will enjoy working with maple syrup as much as we do. Try our Maple Glazed Carrots & Parsnips, Sticky Maple Ginger Soy Glazed Chicken Wings, Pork Loin with Maple Mustard Sauce, One-Bowl All-Purpose Maple Mustard Sauce, our Monash Certified Low FODMAP One-Pan Chicken, Carrots & Potatoes with Maple Mustard Sauce, Maple Pumpkin Pie, Maple Pumpkin Spice Granola, Gluten-Free Browned Butter Maple Bars, Maple Pecan Scones, and of course, any of our luscious low FODMAP pancakes or waffles with a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
Celebrate Maple Syrup
And if you are anywhere near northern Vermont, be sure to check the Vermont Maple Festival website for the dates of the annual festival, at the end of April. 2018 marks the 52nd year of the festival. There are vendors and tastings, music, a craft and antique show, sugarhouse tours, a maple BBQ, children’s programming, talent show, cooking contest and more. You could be crowned that year’s maple ambassador!
If you want to read about granulated sweeteners and sugar, please check out our article All About Sugar.