Ah, maple syrup, the focus of all the new cleanses, the new “healthy” sweetener, the American magic food. You can’t have a continental breakfast without pancakes, can you? So what exactly makes it so magical? Well, according to anybody off the street, your grandma, Cathy from the PA meeting, and everyone’s dog, maple syrup doesn’t go bad. Ever.
Sound’s pretty magical to me. Unfortunately, none of those sources are all that reliable (I mean come on, Cathy was just telling us last week that she still thinks vaccines cause autism). So I took it upon myself to figure it out once and for all.
So, can log cabin maple syrup go bad? Short answer: yes. Long answer: it depends. There’s always a catch. Pure maple syrup can begin to grow mold, but it will certainly stay fresh for longer than it takes you to eat it all. Artificially flavored corn syrup, like Log Cabin Maple Syrup, can also go bad, though in a slightly different way than pure maple syrup does. Instead of sprouting any growths, artificially flavored corn syrup just starts to taste a little funny.
So, what are the differences between Log Cabin Maple Syrup and the real deal? How do they each go bad? What can you do to save your syrup from ultimate doom? Well, luckily for you, that’s what I’m here for. Nothing could be more important than clearing up misconceptions about maple syrup. I take my pancakes very seriously, as every American should.
Spot the Difference
Pure maple syrup is made from sap tapped from maple trees. Maple trees grow in the north, so around places like New York and up into Canada. That’s one stereotype that actually has merit. First, you drill about an inch and half into a maple tree. You do this at an angle so the sap can run down and out. Insert a tap, which basically just acts like a fancy drinking straw, into the drill hole and hang a bucket on that. The sap will start to drip out of the tap as the tree tries to repair itself and will gather in the bucket. Then all you have to do is boil the sap for a really long time. It starts out clear, then darkens as more and more water is boiled off and the sugar left behind becomes a larger and larger percentage of the whole. All you have to do after that is pour it through a heavy-duty filter (basically double up on coffee filters) and you have yourself some pure maple syrup. It takes about ten gallons of maple tree sap to make just one quart (four cups) of maple syrup.
Artificial maple syrup takes all of that skill and process and chucks it out the window. Basically, it’s just corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup to add sweetness, and a whole lot of die, flavoring, and preservatives. Because it takes so much less effort to make, artificial maple syrup is a whole lot cheaper. Plus, when you have young kids, you’re not really going to be wasting money on the really good stuff, let’s be honest. Their palates aren’t refined enough to really appreciate the difference. That’s the reason I keep using to justify keeping all my ice cream to myself too. Pure maple syrup isn’t even all that healthier than artificial maple syrup. They are both chock-full of sugar and calorie rich. It is easier for your body to process the natural sugar than the corn syrup, but there really isn’t a “healthy” choice for maple syrup.
So, now we just need to figure out the mystery behind why syrup doesn’t go bad. Bacteria can’t really grow in a high sugar, low moisture environment. This is why honey never goes bad. And I mean, honey never goes bad. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. If you were to keep an unopened bottle of pure maple syrup on your shelf for decades, it would act exactly like honey and just never spoil. However, when you open that container and expose the syrup to air, you start a clock ticking on the freshness of the syrup. Granted, the syrup will still remain good for a very, very long time. Pure maple syrup will stay good for about six months to a year. Artificial maple syrup will stay good for about 18 months.
Fresh Prince of Pancakes
Okay, I have a confession to make. I said that artificial maple syrup like Log Cabin Maple Syrup goes bad in about 18 months to two years. I lied. You can really eat that stuff for an indefinite amount of time, no matter if you’ve kept the bottle in the fridge or on the shelf. However, even though you can safely ingest it until the day of the apocalypse, you’re going to start noticing a flavor change. Because the syrup is fake, so are the flavorings, even if they tell you there are natural flavorings in there. After about 18 months of being open, the flavor is going to start expiring, and your syrup is going to taste or look “off” or strange. And we don’t want that when it comes to pancakes. Have I mentioned how seriously I take my pancakes?
Pure maple syrup, on the other hand, goes bad in a very obvious way. After about a year, it can actually start to develop mold. Like, no kidding, honest to goodness, spores. You definitely do not want spores with your breakfast. I know my wife has specifically asked for me to exclude fungi from the “breakfast in bed” menu. If your maple syrup does start growing mold, don’t panic. There’s still a chance it can survive.
When I said the word “mold,” you were probably picturing that really gross fuzzy stuff that seems to sprout from every single strawberry overnight (even though you bought them like two days ago, and you know you looked over every single box to find the best ones). Well, that’s not the sort of mold that grows on syrup. The mold that ruins fruit is really a kind of bacteria, and the mold that grows in pure maple syrup is a kind of fungus, and it never actually affects the syrup at all. Even still, pancakes and mushrooms should never mix.
To save your syrup, just skim the mold off the top of the syrup and then boil it for a while. Skim the rest of the stuff that floats to the top during the process, then boil it again. Replace it back in the container, and continue to enjoy your syrup. This is why people say that maple syrup never goes bad. Even if it does start to grow mold, you can always just remove it and keep eating.
Save the Syrup
Not all is lost. I’m about to give you some pretty foolproof ways to preserve your maple syrup for the long haul.
If you want to buy the pure stuff, buy it in bulk. Like always, food is cheaper in bulk, and you can store the extra in your freezer in gallon ziplock bags. Maple syrup won’t freeze solid, and it won’t go bad in your freezer.
When you do have an open maple syrup container that you are using, aim for storing it in a glass container. Glass containers are more airtight and don’t transfer tastes to the syrup. Keep pure maple syrup in the fridge after opening, and keep it tightly sealed.
For artificial maple syrup, store in a cool, dark, dry place. It’s shelf stable, so you don’t have to put it in the fridge, but you can if you want it to last even longer.
Is artificial maple syrup worse than pure maple syrup? Both kinds of syrup are high in sugar and should not be eaten in excess. Pure maple syrup has some antioxidants and vitamins but really has no nutritional value. Artificial maple syrup has a lot of artificial flavors, dies, and sweeteners, so it is a little more unhealthy than pure maple syrup.
Can I make maple syrup at home? There are recipes to make maple syrup at home, but those recipes are usually just boiled water, caramelized sugar, and maple extract. You can tap sap from maple trees and boils and strain it yourself though.
What is the most popular maple syrup? Log Cabin Artificial Maple Syrup is actually the most popular syrup brand among customers, closely followed by Mrs. Butterworth’s.