Pancake Tuesday is almost upon us and no house should be without a bottle of maple syrup.
Lemon juice and sugar is the classic topping but maple syrup adds a whole new level of flavour to pancakes, particularly with a small squeeze of lemon.
The maple tree is native to Quebec in Canada and is also found in parts of North America. Canada produces 80pc of the world's maple syrup and the maple leaf has become their national symbol.
Maple syrup is expensive as it takes 40 litres of maple tree sap to produce one litre of syrup. The sap is simmered until most of the water evaporates -- no other ingredients are added, making maple syrup a very pure food.
Imitations exist where corn syrup or golden syrup are flavoured with maple syrup or with additives (including extract from the spice fenugreek), but there really is no substitute for the real thing.
In general, the lighter grades of syrups are said to have a finer, more delicate taste. In the blind test I found that colour was not generally an indication of a better flavour, so it really does seem to depend on the tree and the skill of the producer. All the samples, except one, were Canadian and were graded as Canada Grade 1 Medium -- the third level of quality but the largest category of syrup produced.
Remember to store maple syrup in the fridge once opened and it should last for many months.
ACADIAN PRODUCTS MAPLE SYRUP, 250ML, €4.99 (DUNNES)
Light gold colour, lighter aroma of maple and caramel, delicate but complex flavour and a pleasant maple tang in the finish. Excellent. 8/10
TESCO MAPLE SYRUP, 200ML, €4.99
Dark amber colour, strong toffee aroma with a rich caramel flavour, sweet and complex and a clean finish. 7.5/10
SHAMROCK MAPLE SYRUP, 250ML, €6.89
Light golden colour, light maple aroma with a sweet and clean maple flavour. Light and subtle but few lingering flavours. 6.5/10
SHADY MAPLE FARMS CANADA NO 2 AMBER, 250ML, €8.99 (VARIOUS DELICATESSENS)
The only Grade 2 syrup (lower quality in theory). Strong maple aroma, medium dark colour, sweet caramel taste but with some light fruit flavours. Good but more expensive than others. 6.5/10
JAKEMANS MAPLE SYRUP, 250ML, €6.49/4.99 (SUPERQUINN/SUPERVALU)
Good maple aroma, light gold colour, clean maple taste, very sweet and rather lacking in acidity and maple flavours. 6/10
ALDI GRANDESSA, 250ML, €3.99
Very light aroma, medium amber colour, sweet but quite simple maple flavours. Excellent value but not as complex as the others. 5.5/10