Maple syrup is made from the sap of the sugar, produced by the black or red maple tree. A tree can be 40 years old before it reaches the 30cm trunk diameter to be ready to tap. Maple trees are only found in select parts of Canada and Vermont, and New York State in the U.S. Quebec in Canada produces most of the world’s supply.
The season only lasts 4-6 weeks in late winter/early spring.
The syrup is made by tapping the tree trunk, allowing the colourless sap to run out. The sap is collected and condensed by boiling; this concentrates the sugar content to about 60% and adds flavour and colour in the finished product.
30-50 litres of sap are evaporated to make 1 litre of syrup. The syrup can be harvested in a sustainable way, so that sap can be collected for many years with no effect on the tree.
Making maple syrup dates back to the native Native Americans. The syrup was condensed by placing hot stones in the bucket or nightly freezing and the subsequent removal of the frozen water. The technology has moved on, but is based on the same principles.
Maple syrup is a popular foodstuff and is eaten on pancakes and waffles or used as a sweetener.
Maple sap can be used to make maple taffy. This involves boiling the sap to 112 degrees Celsius and pouring the molten syrup on fresh snow to produce a soft sweet. This is best eaten fresh.
Maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc.
The syrup has a very distinctive flavour and there have been many attempts to make a similar synthetic flavour, but we prefer to use the natural maple syrup.
The maple tree has such significance in Canada that its leaf is found on the country's flag.