(NEWS10) — Get the pancakes and waffles ready… December 17 is National Maple Syrup Day! Whether your maple syrup of choice comes in a tall person-shaped bottle, or a squat brown jug, or a glass jar or anything in between, it’s a day to cook up a stack of hot cakes and drizzle them with maple goodness.

Did you know there are different grades AND classes of real maple syrup as defined by the USDA? Most maple syrup bottled and sold for consumption falls into the “Grade A” category. This is syrup with a nice, clear, uniform color and flavor. Syrup that doesn’t meet those standards can fall into “Processing Grade” or “Substandard Grade” categories.

Maple Syrup Classes

Within “Grade A” maple syrup is further categorized into four specific “classes”, each with its own set of properties and traits laid out by the USDA.

A syrup’s class is determined by its taste and color. Sugar concentration, sap pH, length of boiling time, outside temperature and microbial activity can all affect a syrup’s class.

Golden: Delicate flavor and the lightest color – Typically harvested early in the sugaring season.

Amber: Rich flavor and light amber color – The “classic” maple syrup taste and color.

Dark: Robust flavor and dark amber color – For those who want a more robust maple flavor than Golden or Amber.

Very Dark: Strong flavor and darkest color – Holds up well in cooking for glazing ribs or basting on chicken

Pass the syrup!