Maple syrup is a thick kind of syrup made from the sap of maple trees.
It is most often made of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees.
Maple trees are tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and collecting the sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
The sap itself is made up of 90% water – the remaining 10% of the sap is a mixture of sugars (sucrose is the most prevalent sugar), calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and trace amounts of B vitamins.
Most trees can produce 20 to 60 litres (5 to 15 US gallons) of sap per season.
In order to make the sap into syrup, most of the water will be removed, which is why it takes approximately 150 liters (40 gal) of sap to make 4 liters (1 gal) of syrup. Syrups are usually packed when they are hot.
The Algonquin Indians called it sinzibukwud, meaning drawn from wood. It was the Algonquins and the other Native American tribes of the northeastern United States and southeast Canada who first showed French and British settlers how to draw the sap of the sugar maple, and reduce it into a sweet, thick liquid known today as maple syrup.
Throughout the 1700s, both maple syrup and maple sugar served as an integral unit of trade for the early colonies, but they would soon be supplanted by another sweet crop from warmer climates, namely sugar cane.
Maple syrup and maple sugar were used during the American Civil War and by abolitionists in the years before the war because most cane sugar and molasses were produced by Southern slaves.
For more than 300 years the making of maple syrup remained virtually unchanged, except for the introduction of the flue evaporator. Then, in the late 1940s, modernization began: taphole-drilling equipment was mechanized – sanitary methods were adopted for handling sap – precision instruments were developed for making syrup – provision was made for sap to be transported from the tapholes of entire areas of sugar bush (sugar maple stands) to storage tanks via plastic tubing – and central evaporator plants were established to serve whole communities of sap producers.
Quebec is by far the largest producer, responsible for 70 percent of the world’s output.
In Canada, syrups must be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup and must also be at least 66 percent sugar.
In the United States, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labelled as “maple”, though states such as Vermont and New York have more restrictive definitions.
The major products are pure and blended brown table syrups, confections, toppings for ice cream, flavourings, and casing for tobacco.
It is also used as an ingredient in baking and as a sweetener or flavouring agent.
Culinary experts have praised its unique flavour, and beautiful texture.
Maple syrup taffy, also called “sugar on snow,” is a favorite pastime for kids as well as adults when the sap begins to flow in eastern Canada and New England. It entails heating maple syrup to the soft-ball stage, pouring it in lines on a snow-filled tray, then rolling the candy up onto a small wooden stick.
Vermont residents also have an unusual tradition of celebrating the sugaring season by snacking on a combination of maple syrup, plain raised doughnuts, and dill pickles. Each bite of the doughnut is dipped in syrup and eaten, with bits of dill pickle interspersed about every two to three bites. Proponents of this intriguing combination say the sweet and sour tastes complement each other.
Maple products are considered emblematic of Canada, and are frequently sold in tourist shops and airports as souvenirs from Canada.
The sugar maple’s leaf has come to symbolize Canada, and is depicted on the country’s flag.
Several US states, including West Virginia, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin, have the sugar maple as their state tree.
A scene of sap collection is depicted on the Vermont state quarter, issued in 2001.
The largest collection of pure maple syrup artefacts consists of 5,228 items and was achieved by Vernon Wheeler at Wheelers Maple Products, in McDonalds Corners, Ontario, Canada, on 17 January 2014.
Rapid Duct Supply created the world’s largest bucket of maple syrup measuring 0.91 m (3 feet) in height, 0.96 m (3 ft 2 in) diameter with a capacity of 605 litres (133 gall) for the annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, Ontario, Canada held on April 1, 2000.