As Canadians we have a very good reason to salute our national emblem: Canada produces 85 % of the world’s supply of maple syrup.
Maple syrup producers, like all food producers, have an obligation to make and sell maple syrup that is both safe and of the highest quality.
Maple syrup production is an important part of our economy as well as our history.
First Nations people developed the first method of boiling sap to create a sweeter and thicker substance. A hallowed out piece of wood was filled with maple sap and hot stones were place right in the middle. This process was continued until all the sap was evaporated into sugar. Until about 1875, the standard sweetener used in the Eastern part of North America was maple syrup. Later, as cane sugar became widely available, maple sap was put to other uses.
How do trees make sap?
While maple trees are growing, they accumulate starch, which is the first step in sap production. As things begin to thaw in the spring months, enzymes convert a tree’s starch into sugar. This mixes with water absorbed through the tree’s roots giving the sap a bit of a sweet taste. When ideal temperatures of 5 Degrees Celsius during the day and -5 Degrees Celsius at night are reached in early spring, the sap starts to flow. Just like the sugar from our diets gives us energy, the flowing, sugary sap gives maple trees the energy to grow.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness the process of sap collecting several times as I would take my classes to the Despatie Sugar Bush, tasted the sap and made maple toffee on the newly fallen snow. Again, as a family, we visited Sucrerie Séguin and observed the sap slowly move through the intricate mazes of plastic tubes leadings to the evaporator house where high quality maple syrup would be produced.
Maple syrup fits into one of four categories based on the colour and flavor.
Extra Light – very delicate maple flavour, good for pancakes and waffles.
Light – delicate maple flavour, ideal for French toast, as a dessert topping or with breakfast cereals.
Medium – distinct maple flavour, can be used for glazing sweetening or as a dessert on its own.
Amber – stronger maple flavour, great for baking and flavouring.
Maple syrup is an all-natural product free of preservatives, and should be refrigerated or stored in the freezer once it is opened. This natural, sweet treat should be consumed in moderation. Although it contains mostly sucrose, maple syrup is also a source of three essential elements: calcium, crucial for strong bones and teeth, iron which plays an important note in our immune system, energy production and the transport and storage of oxygen in our bodies, and thiamine which helps our bodies convert carbohydrates and fat into energy.
At a mere 50 calories per tablespoon, maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes! It tastes wonderful poured over desserts, baked into a cake enjoyed after a meal of maple – glazed chicken or ham.