Maple syrup is one of those ingredients that's hard to hate. You can stir it into lattes, drizzle it on top of pancakes, or mix it into homemade vinaigrettes ... and that's just scratching the surface. It's also a classic fall ingredient that infuses treats with a warm, cozy flavor.
However, if you want to get the most out of your maple syrup, it's important to store it properly. After all, a bottle of maple syrup isn't exactly cheap, nor does it last forever once opened. "Many people make the mistake of equating it to honey, which never spoils," says Traci Weintraub, chef and founder of Gracefully Fed, a restaurant and meal delivery service based in Los Angeles. But alas, an opened bottle of maple syrup can certainly go bad.
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So, how do you store maple syrup at home? Read on for the best practices and guidelines, according to experts.
How to Store Unopened Maple Syrup
If you spot a sale on maple syrup at the grocery store, don't hesitate to stock up. According to Chayanin Pornsriniyom, chef-instructor of health-supportive culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, an unopened bottle of maple syrup can last many years, so long as you store it properly.
The key is to keep the maple syrup in an area that's dark, cool, and dry. Ideal locations include a dark cupboard or pantry away from the oven and stovetop. The reason? "Microbes typically thrive when exposed to sunlight, heat, and air," shares Weintraub. Thus, by eliminating these factors, you'll decrease the chance of your maple syrup spoiling, she says.
It's also worth considering the material of the bottle, should you plan to store the maple syrup for many years unopened. In this case, Pornsriniyom recommends using glass. That's because oxygen can eventually sneak through plastic, causing the syrup to darken over time, she notes. On the flipside, "if it will be used within a year, the material will not make any difference," Pornsriniyom tells Hunker.
How to Store Opened Maple Syrup
Although maple syrup is sold at room temperature at the store, it's best stored in a different environment after you start using the bottle.
"Once you have opened maple syrup, it needs to be refrigerated to prevent it from going bad," says Weintraub. It's also a good idea to ensure the container is properly sealed to prevent dehydration and odor, shares Pornsriniyom. When stored in this way in the fridge, an opened bottle of maple syrup will last for up to one year, notes Weintraub.
By the way, a bottle of maple syrup may develop sugar crystals around the cap while it's in the refrigerator. This can make it difficult to open, says Weintraub. You can easily fix this by running the bottle under warm water for about a minute, which should dissolve the sticky crystals, she tells Hunker. (Just be sure the cap is totally closed to avoid water sneaking into the bottle.)
Otherwise, "refrigerating will not change the texture or taste in any meaningful way, beyond making it slightly tricky to open," Weintraub explains. However, if you prefer your maple syrup at room temperature or warm, it's still important to avoid storing opened bottles outside of the fridge — because, again, it will spoil. Instead, take your maple syrup out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to use it, or slowly warm up the amount you need in a pot, suggests Weintraub.
Can You Freeze Maple Syrup?
As it turns out, it's possible to freeze maple syrup. "This can be a great option if you're buying larger quantities of maple syrup, as it increases the shelf life more than when [it's] refrigerated," says Weintraub. You can transfer it into small glass jars, ice cube trays, or air-tight, freezer-safe silicone containers.
"The maple syrup will freeze into a slushy-like texture, but [it] will return to its original taste and texture when reheated," explains Weintraub. "You can either thaw it on the counter overnight or stick it in the microwave."
Signs Maple Syrup Has Gone Bad
As mentioned, maple syrup can spoil, so it's essential to follow the storage techniques outlined above. If it does go bad, it will likely smell "off" or "sour," according to Weintraub.
Maple syrup can also grow mold, but as Pornsriniyom explains: "Pure maple syrup has such a high sugar content that mold won't grow on the syrup itself; it will just be on the top layer." This will rarely happen if you store maple syrup in a tightly sealed container that keeps out oxygen, though.
"If mold is present, strain it out using a cheesecloth or simply skim off the mold," says Pornsriniyom. Next, reheat the syrup to 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any mold or bacteria, which will make it safe to eat. You can then refrigerate the maple syrup as usual.
However, if the idea of removing mold makes you uneasy, you can throw the syrup out, recycle the container, and pop open a new bottle. Just be sure to store it properly to avoid another sticky situation!