Kit aimed at cutting off-flavors in Vermont maple syrup

UNDERHILL, Vt. (WCAX) An off-flavor is popping up in syrup now that the maple season is winding down, but there's a way producers can make sure they aren't bottling something that isn't top-notch Vermont maple syrup.

Vermont has a standard for syrup based on color, clarity, density and flavor.

"Those are written into law and producers have to follow that law," said Mark Isselhardt of the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center.

Isselhardt focuses his attention on helping producers.

He says flavor is the more subjective of the four standards.

"But there are certain off-flavors that happen fairly regularly that producers need to be able to identify and make sure it doesn't make it into a retail container," Isselhardt said.

That includes Sour Sap, Metabolism and Buddy. Sour Sap happens when the sap sits for too long. Metabolism shows up after a long freeze and then a dramatic warmup. Finally, Buddy is the most common and happens at the end of the season when the sap chemistry changes.

The flavor of Buddy gets characterized in different ways, but it has an artificially sweet taste, like a Tootsie Roll.

It's not terrible tasting and could be sold as an ingredient, but can't be bottled like regular syrup.

"So producers need to-- and they do-- taste every batch, think critically about whether or not it meets that Grade A standard," Isselhardt said.

To help, Isselhardt put together a pack of the three off-flavors for producers to use as a reference.

"The idea behind the kit is that everyone in the operation tastes it and is on the same page about what these off flavors are," he explained.

Producers can get one by contacting the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association. The kits cost $10.