December 5, 2012

Care of Amy Symington

What is more Canadian than maple syrup? A thick Quebecois accent, eager beavers, veggie poutine and Canadian Club whisky may all give it a run for its loonies but maple syrup is recognized globally as liquid Canadian candy.  Fact.
The Process
The province of Quebec alone is responsible for ¾ of the world’s maple syrup sales. The best part? It is a renewable resource that comes from trees. It’s not often that you can say that. The more trees, the more maple syrup too! As they all have equally high starch/sugar content, the 3 main types of trees that are used for maple syrup production or “tapping” as it’s referred to in the industry are:  Sugar Maple, Black Maple and Red Maple. Once they have grown to be 12 inches in diameter, the trees are ready to be tapped every year.
Late March to early April is the typical maple syrup season. Like other processes in spring, things thaw and tree sap is no different. As the sap begins to thaw, it also begins to run. This tends to last about 4-6 weeks and is collected either via an “old school” bucket or an intricate tubing system. The next step is where all the magic happens. After the sap has been collected it is boiled down to evaporate the excess water. This condenses it into the rich, earthy, toffee tasting condiment that we Canadians have grown to love and slather all over our breakfasts.
As a general rule of thumb, each tap will yield approximately 10 gallons of sap over a 6 week period. However, after processing, the 10 gallons only end up producing around 1 quart of actual maple syrup.   It takes even more to make maple sugar candy and/or (*drool*) maple sugar butter.  BUT it’s worth it.
The grading of maple syrup is dependent upon the clarity and density of the finished product.  In Canada, it goes:  Canada #1 = Extra light   Canada #2 = Amber  Canada #3 = Dark
The light and amber syrups are mostly used as condiments for our flapjacks and French toast, while the dark syrups, which tend to be more potent in flavour, are usually said to be reserved for baking purposes; but who’s monitoring really!? With that said, maple syrup tasting is becoming a new past time. Because every batch is different, they are often taste tested using similar methods to that of wine tasting, using similar descriptive words to fully describe the nature of the syrup.  Who said being Canadian wasn’t classy, EH?
Passing on the White Stuff
Nutritionally speaking, maple syrup is definitely better than its overly processed counterpart sugar.  Maple syrup has recently been a hot topic for discussion as well, as some recent research has shown potential health benefits to its consumption.  Due to the phenol compounds that are present, maple syrup contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities that could positively affect those who consume the viscous condiment. This could potentially aid in the fight against certain serious ailments such as cancer and/or diabetes. Not something you can you say ABOOT our old acquaintance sugar.
On top of that, maple syrup contains several micronutrients that are needed by the body.  It is a very good source of manganese and a good source of zinc, and 50ml provides 117mg of potassium and provides 6% of calcium and thiamin, 5% of iron, and 2% magnesium and riboflavin of your daily mineral requirements. AND to add even more good news for maple lovers everywhere, maple syrup can politely excuse sugar from almost anything.  Add it to coffee, tea, baked treats, sauces, marinades, and/or dressings for a more unique and complex flavour!  Yes please and thank you!

Maple syrup supports Canadian and local industries, it encourages the growth of forestry, is a natural and healthier alternative to sugar and is quite tasty.  So perhaps when you’re feeling a tad patriotic instead of cursing at the hockey game on TV, have yourself a maple kissed cappuccino or make a loved one some sweet maple glazed veggie sausages alongside a maple pecan scone topped with maple butter all accompanied by a wild blueberry smoothie sweetened with maple syrup.  Sweet or savoury maple makes it better. O Canada! This spring make it your patriotic duty to find a maple syrup festival near you!

Filed under: Eat Veg elifelines Food of the Month Nutrition