Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Amber Goodness

Chalk this one up to an example of how frugal does not automatically equate to cheap: One of the luxuries I might cut back but never eliminate from my grocery budget is real maple syrup.

That’s right. I’m a syrup snob. I despise the maple-flavored liquid plastic IHOP serves up as “maple syrup” to the point of no thanks, I’ll just have a couple eggs and some toast.

I don’t care how awesome the waffles are, if you don’t have real maple syrup – fughettaboutit.

Of course, pure maple syrup is the Cadillac of pancake toppings. A “serving size” most commonly begin defined as a quarter cup, one serving of Mrs. Butterworths runs you about 36 cents. Hence the popularity of the stuff at tables around the world (and particularly at restaurants, who have to watch the bottom line so hard and constantly it’s a wonder their collective eyeballs don’t pop out of their skulls and get stuck to their desks because fake maple syrup definitely has at least some percentage of Krazy Glue in it).

Buying a bottle of the generic real stuff on sale at Safeway of the real stuff sets you back up to $1.67 per serving. Getting it a quart at a time at Costco can give you a slight break, down to $1.25.

Which means that when I make waffles, each $0.16 waffle gets $0.63 in syrup poured over it (yeah, I’m cheap, I only give the kids maybe two tablespoons of syrup over their waffles…sometimes less…Captain Adventure gets maybe two teaspoons of the stuff because a) he doesn’t complain and b) he tends to wear more than he eats).

Seventy-nine cents a person for breakfast, what is the world coming to?!?!?!

I kept thinking I had to be able to buy it, you know, cheaper, perhaps by buying in bulk. We go through a quart a month easily, even with me being all scanty with the good stuff.

I kept shopping around. I thought about Amazon (super saver shipping takes the sting out of the shipping charges – a gallon of maple syrup is heavy), but eventually settled on Vermont Trade Winds. They offered free shipping on orders over $50, and they make pies. Not that I’m going to be ordering pies since, well, duh. Why wait two days for shipping when I can whump one out in two hours including time spent picking up missing ingredients at the market?

It’s just that I have an irrational trust thing when it comes to people who bake pies. And they offered free shipping. And discounts on two or more gallons.

So I crossed my fingers, ordered two gallons, and waited.

Impatiently waited, because we ran out of maple syrup (the horror) last week.

Today, a large heavy box was deposited by our smiling (or perhaps it was a grimace…the box was rather seriously heavy for its size…). Inside were two gallon-sized jugs. In the interest of science, I immediately opened one and dipped a finger into the amber fluid.


Sweet, crisp and loaded with maple flavor. It’s not just good because it’s real maple syrup – this is good real maple syrup.

And a full quarter cup would run about $0.91. Sweet! (Literally!)

This is not to say I’m going to go ahead and let the kids have a full quarter-cup serving on their waffles tomorrow. Heck no.

I’m just going to enjoy the feeling of paying only $0.62 per kid while they praise my incredible cooking skills.

…and I will pretend not to notice that I am an incredible cook when we’re talking waffles, mashed potatoes and gravy and cookies, and a barely to be tolerated one when broccoli, peas, carrots and/or anything “spicy” is on offer…


(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

Congratulations on your discerning taste (quoth the former Vermonter)! :)

PipneyJane said...

Did I tell you about the 3 liters of maple syrup I lugged back from Canada last year? Wonderful stuff. (Costco's finest.) Most of my luggage was taken up with "food we can't buy in the UK at a reasonable price". (Maple Syrup here runs at about £1.50 for 200ml. Fortunately, they haven't heard about the fake stuff.)

- Pam (send blackbeans)

Unknown said...

I, too, draw the line at imitation maple syrup. It's just wrong.

However, I've found the best way to conserve syrup is by not actually pouring the syrup onto the waffle/pancake, but by pouring a tablespoon or so onto the plate* and just dunk each bite into the syrup. You use much less, and still get the enjoy the wonderful maple-y goodness.

*or a separate small dish - a shot glass works well here, and if you heat up the syrup (5 - 10 seconds in the microwave) it goes even further.

Anonymous said...

This post came at the perfect time. We ran out yesterday and I went to our local Costco where, horrors, they no longer have the good (only acceptable) stuff. I came home with nothing and was about to start searching the net for options. Thank you so much for doing the leg (finger?) work for everyone.

Ms. Packrat said...

Surprisingly, the grade system is still set to less maple flavor and lighter color for the best grades and deeper color and more flavor for grade B because people used to cook with it as a sweetner and wanted less maple flavior for that use. So if you get a chance to buy grade b .... you may find that it is even more delightfully maple-y.

Anonymous said...

Melt in a little butter...mmmmmm. Fortunately, my kids don't like maple syrup--it tastes too
maple-y. So they get the cheap stuff and the real maple syrup is all for me. And I get the Grade B, amber or dark amber (I forget which). Also great mixed in with butternut or acorn squash.

Science PhD Mom said...

We are a Grade B maple household. I typically buy it at Trader Joe's because we only eat waffles or pancakes as a treat, thus it is a rare indulgence. I love the flavor from the Grade B and I think we use a bit less because we don't need as much for that wonderful flavor!