sugar shack - maple oat pie - The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Maple Oat Pie

Recently at the grocery store, I overheard a conversation.  The couple standing in the middle of the aisle were looking for Grade B maple syrup and couldn’t find it.  They also were wondering what the heck the difference was between Grade A and Grade B.

Having lived in Vermont before and having spent some time in a sugar shack (just tasting mind you, not cooking) I thought I would share a little information about maple syrup.

About Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made from the sap of the sugar maple tree.  In the spring when the weather warms up the sap starts “running”.  At this point, the trees are tapped and the sugar shacks start boiling to create the syrup.  We don’t often think about it when buying those small containers of maple syrup at the grocery store, but it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And the average maple tree produces approximately 10 gallons of sap.  Once they start boiling in the sugar shack they don’t stop until the sap stops. That includes shifts to cover 24 hours a day until there’s no more to boil.  As you can imagine, this can make for some very long days.

Grades of Maple Syrup

There are five grades of maple syrup, Grade A Light Amber is the fancy grade and the one most people use.  Grade A Medium Amber and Grade A Dark Amber are darker, obviously and they have a slightly different taste.  Grade B is even darker and thicker than Grade A Dark Amber and has a more pronounced flavor.  It is more often used for cooking because of the more intense flavor.  The last grade is Grade C, or commercial, which is for flavorings and other commercial uses.
When we lived in Vermont and my kids were little they used to love seeing the smoke curling out of the sugar shack down the road. That meant that there was an opportunity to stop by for a sip. And if they had the time we could also sometimes make sugar on snow, taking just a little of the fresh syrup and pouring it over a pan of snow to make a maple candy. 
If there was some already bottled we would buy a gallon and bring it home. Until I left Vermont I didn’t really appreciate how lovely it was to buy syrup directly from the source and use it for baking and other recipes. The premium that you pay for bottle syrup is so high we are now back to purchasing small bottles and doling it out.
According to Ed, the guy who owned the sugar shack down the way, Vermont maple syrup is better than any other because they use more gallons of sap per gallon of finished product, boiling it thicker and making it more flavorful.  

Sweetening with Syrup

I never learned to drink coffee with maple syrup (which a number of people in Vermont do). I did, however, get a recipe from my friend Carol for a Maple Oat Pie which is a Vermont specialty.  I’ve modified the recipe slightly over the years but still call it Carol’s Maple Oat Pie and think of her every time I make it (warning, this is not a low-calorie food but it sure is good).
Carol's Maple Oat Pie
  1. 1 C. sucanat
  2. 1 C. butter
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 cup maple syrup
  5. 1 cup oatmeal
  6. 2 tsp vanilla
  7. 1 cup crushed walnuts
  8. 1 gluten-free pie crust, unbaked
  1. preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. cream together sucanat and butter
  3. add eggs one at a time
  4. pulse oats a few times in a food process
  5. add oats and remaining ingredients
  6. pour mixture into unbaked 9" pie shell.
  7. Bake 325° for 10 min
  8. reduce heat to 300 and bake another 45 minutes or until set
Adapted from from original by Carol Hayes
Adapted from from original by Carol Hayes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at