Did you know that 75 percent of the world's maple syrup production occurs in Canada? On top of that, 92 percent originates from Quebec. Other provinces such as New Brunswick (four percent), Ontario (three percent), and Nova Scotia (one percent) are responsible for more of the production of maple syrup but to a lesser degree than Quebec.
The second-biggest producer of Maple Syrup is the United States, but Canada is truly the home of maple syrup. In Canada, maple syrup goes beyond being a product we produce and is truly part of our culture.
For our fellow Canadians looking for something sweet, keep reading to learn about another Canadian national treasure, maple syrup.
Maple Syrup Farm
What did the Canadian maple syrup farmer say when he saw a beautiful sugar maple tree? I'd tap that
In 2020, Canadian maple producers harvested 14.3 million gallons of maple syrup. This passed the 2019 record of 13.2 million gallons.
Due to this increase, sales in 2020 were up 7.9 percent and equalled a total of 558.5 million dollars. That's a lot of maple.
Across Canada, you will find many maple syrup farms. Some of these farms you can visit and buy products from. There are also many Canadian maple syrup festivals to hit up during the year at various farms.
These farms range from small to large, and you will even find some organic maple farms along the way.
Maple Syrup - Short History
The indigenous people of Canada, such as the Abenaki, Haudenosaunee, and Mi'kmaq people, utilized maple before European settlers arrived in Canada.
Early stories talk about using the "sweet water" to cook venison. The Anishinaabe would cure their food with maple. This allowed them to have food stored up during the winter months.
Early production of maple involved cutting v-shaped patterns or inserting willow or basswood tubes into the sugar maple tree. A bowl made of birch bark would get placed underneath.
This often occurred in the early spring, and the product from the tree would get made into sugary syrup in various ways.
When French settlers came to Canada, they learned from the indigenous people how to get sap from the trees and reduce it to syrup or sugar slabs. Early accounts of maple sugaring were in 1557 by André Thevet and in 1606 by Marc Lescarbot.
Production of maple syrup by settlers began in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Settlers would drill holes into the trees and insert wooden spouts.
The spouts would allow the sap to flow through them. Settlers would collect the sap in hollowed-out logs. It would then get taken to what was called a sugar shack or cabane à sucre.
Here the sap would get turned into syrup. This syrup has been used in a variety of products over the years.
Why Is Maple Syrup Important to Canada?
Canada is famous for its delicious maple syrup. Aside that maple syrup is a milestone in Canada's history it is also considered Canada's national treasure, and the sugar maple’s leaf is even represented on the country’s flag. The amazing Canadian summer would not be possible without its maple trees.
As of today, the maple industry is one of the most critical sectors in Canada and provides an opportunity of income for people in the most remote areas in the world.
How to Make Maple Syrup?
Did you watch the movie about how to make maple syrup? It's pretty sappy.
The process of making maple syrup starts at the tree. There are a variety of trees that can get used in this process.
Some of the maple trees you will see get tapped are:
- Sugar maple tree
- Black maple tree
- Red maple tree
- Silver maple tree
- Boxelder trees
The highest concentration of sugar will come from the sap of the sugar maple tree. The amount of sap you need to make syrup is dependent on the tree.
For a sugar maple tree, 40 gallons of sap will make one gallon of syrup. However, when tapping a box elder tree, 60 gallons of sap may be needed to make that same one gallon of syrup.
This is because of the lower concentrations of sugar in the sap of other maple trees.
Maple trees typically can get tapped once they reach 30 to 40 years of age. The number of times a tree can get tapped in the season is dependent on the diameter of the tree.
Once a maple tree is eight inches in diameter or more, it can get tapped. With every additional 20 cm, the tree can get tapped more than once during the season.
The maximum number of taps on a single tree per season is three. This is to protect the trees and to allow them to continue to grow and be healthy.
When maple trees get tapped is dependent on the region you live in and the weather. Temperatures that alternate between freezing and thawing will create pressure that allows the sap to flow when tapping a tree.
You want the night to be below freezing. However, warmer temperatures are needed during the day. Typically the days should be running around 4 degrees celcius.
In these conditions, a pressure is created that pushes the water to the bottom of the tree and allows the sap to get collected. The gathering time for sap is generally four to six weeks long.
This time generally goes from early March to late April in Canada. The end of the season is indicated by the temperatures remaining above freezing and leaf buds appearing on the trees.
Once the trees have been tapped, and you have the sap, the process of making maple syrup begins.
Sap needs to get evaporated quickly after getting collected. If the sap is not boiled right away, it can ferment.
Fermented sap is going to create a syrup that tastes "off." When looking at the sap, you should realize that it is around two percent sugar and 98 percent water.
This means that the water needs to get evaporated and boiled down to create a syrup. This is typically done utilizing a commercially produced evaporated pan.
The pan is specifically made to produce maple syrup. However, in the early days, the indigenous people would either boil the sap by adding hot rocks to birch bark pots or bail the sap in clay or metal kettles over the fire.
Some would even simply leave the sap out in the cold and throw away the frozen water as it separated from the syrup. Early settlers would use large metal kettles over a fire.
With technological advancements, today's process is much shorter than what the indigenous people and early settlers of Canada experienced.
Today a thermometer and hydrometer are typically used to ensure that the sap reaches the correct temperature to create a syrup. Once the sap has been evaporated, it will be 33 percent water and 67 percent sugar.
At this point, it is filtered and colour graded.
Maple Syrup Grades
Colour grades can fall into four different classifications.
"Golden Delicate Taste or Doré, goût délicat" syrup is typically from sap that was harvested at the start of the season. It has a light golden coloured hue. The flavour is delicate and sweet.
Golden syrup is typically an excellent topping for yogurt or ice cream.
"Amber Rich Taste or Ambré, goût riche" is an amber colour. This syrup tastes rich and pure. Amber maple can get used in a variety of dishes, including vinaigrettes and desserts.
"Dark Robust Taste or Foncé, goût robuste" is great for enhancing the taste of dishes that are fruity. This syrup has a flavour that is more pronounced and caramelized. That makes the dark robust taste syrup excellent for baking, cooking, and sauces.
"Very Dark, Strong Taste or Très foncé, goût prononcé" syrup gets created from sap that gets collected at the end of the season. True to its name, it will have the most pronounced flavour.
The flavour will be distinctive and rich, making it an excellent choice for colouring and perfuming sauces and glazes.
Is Maple Syrup Healthy?
Maple syrup is reported to be healthy due to being high in antioxidants. In addition, you can find riboflavin, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and calcium in maple syrup. Maple syrup also has a lower glycemic index than sugar.
Darker coloured syrups are reported to have a high level of antioxidant activity which can decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, it can aid in digestion because of a prebiotic fibre contained within it.
Because of this, the consumption of maple syrup is encouraged by many. However, you must also take into consideration the sugar content of maple syrup.
While some may encourage you to "pour it on" and experience the benefits, others caution lovers of maple syrup to utilize it in moderation due to the high sugar content.
Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
Maple season can be torture for those who love that maple taste but can't do the sugar. However, sugar-free maple syrups do exist.
As the years have gone by, new technology has allowed delicious products to get developed for everyone who wants some maple. While there are many sugar-free maple products out there, not all are created equal.
However, Canadian companies such as ChocZero have created products that will leave your taste buds tingling with delight. This company makes keto products.
ChocZero has a sugar-free maple syrup that gets made utilizing all-natural maple extract. They sweeten it naturally with monk fruit.
Maple Syrup Calories
For the calorie-conscious, what do maple syrup calories look like? While there are undoubtedly higher-calorie foods out there, maple syrup should still get consumed in moderation.
The number of calories in your maple syrup is, in part, going to depend on the syrup you buy. Sugar-free alternatives like the one discussed above can be around 35 calories per serving.
Maple syrup options with sugar can vary significantly in calories. However, typically you will see the calories for a serving size of one tablespoon ranging around 50 to 55 calories.
Maple Syrup on Snow
Two things you will find in abundance in Canada are snow and maple syrup. So what happens when you combine the two?
If you have never made maple syrup snow candy, you have at least heard of it in the classic Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
To make this candy, you need two items:
- Real maple syrup
- Clean, fresh snow
It is best to do this after a fresh snowfall. This helps ensure that the snow you use has not been walked on. Also, watch out for that yellow snow.
You can make this candy inside or outside. If it's too cold, you may want to consider transporting your snow into the comfort of your home.
When making this candy, you will pour your syrup into a small pot. Heat until your syrup is boiling.
You will use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature. Your syrup should reach 232 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit or 112.78 to 115.56 degrees Celsius.
If you go past this temperature, that's fine. Your candy will simply be crunchier rather than chewier.
Once your syrup has heated to the correct temperature, you will pour it into well-packed snow. If you are making your candy outside, you can pack the snow down there; if you decide to stay toasty warm inside, just pack the snow down on a baking sheet or platter.
You can create individual pieces of candy by pouring puddles of syrup into the snow, or you can make maple snow candy pops.
To make the popsicles, simply pour your syrup in lines and as it begins to cool, roll it around a popsicle stick.
Maple Syrup Salmon
With salmon being another iconic Canadian food, how do you combine salmon and maple syrup?
There are some great recipes out there for maple syrup salmon. This involves creating a glaze for your salmon and baking it in your oven.
Not only is this recipe easy, but it is healthy with there being many health benefits of salmon.
To make maple syrup salmon, you will combine the following ingredients:
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- Two tablespoons soy sauce
- One clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
Place one pound of salmon in this marinade for half an hour, turning the salmon one time. You will marinate the salmon in the refrigerator.
After marinating, put the salmon in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius.
Bake for 20 minutes uncovered or until the salmon flakes with your fork.
Caution: for the gluten-sensitive, be sure to pick up a gluten-free soy sauce.
Grab Some Canadian Maple Syrup
Maple syrup in Canada has a rich history and continues to be a big part of our culture and economy. This syrup is an excellent choice for all types of dishes, so grab your favourite colour and have fun experimenting with different recipes.
Are you passionate about Canadian maple syrup? Take the chance to travel and visit the various farms and festivals.
However, before you head out the door with your car packed up, grab a quote for travel insurance to keep you and your family protected.