(NC) Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a professional food taster? A dream job for many, an accomplished taster continually explores a vast repertoire of foods, from artichokes to zucchini and even old fashioned Canadian maple syrup.
Canada produces approximately 75 per cent of the world's maple syrup, exporting it to 75 countries around the world. Scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have been working in partnership with the ACER research centre to shine a spotlight on the wealth of flavours found in maple products.
One of their key research results is the development of a Maple Flavour Wheel, which offers a precise vocabulary to describe and document the flavours specific to maple products. This research will enable scientists to expand their knowledge of maple syrup's composition and identify the components behind its flavour and characteristic aroma. In turn, this new knowledge will help you better understand the flavour subtleties of maple syrup products.
Although professional tasters for any food require extensive training, you can sharpen your syrup tasting skills with these five tips:
1. Prepare your body. The basic rules are to be in good health and avoid smoking, coffee, chocolate and any foods with a strong or persistent taste prior to a tasting. Avoid perfumes, scented lotions and creams.
2. Choose the right environment. Tasting is best done in a well-ventilated room, where there are no extraneous odours or noises.
3. Perfect your technique. Start by smelling the syrup with three quick sniffs. Make a mental note of your impressions. Next, take a small sip of the syrup and swirl it around in your mouth. It's a good idea to spit it out if you can. Take about a minute to concentrate on the full range of flavours.
4. Make connections. Try to associate the flavour with your own experience ( for example, the aroma from a bag of marshmallows. Share your reactions with others as this often helps trigger memory associations.
5. Learn to describe flavours. Assess the degree of intensity ( mild, medium or strong.
Once you've identified what you think characterizes the taste, memorize the sensation and the name for it. Use the world's first ever maple syrup flavour wheel, created by Canadian scientists, to help you. It explains how vanilla, plant, fruity, spicy and a host of other flavours express themselves in the syrup.
Check out the flavour wheel online at agr.gc.ca/discoveragriculture.