All About Maple Syrup

A Few Basics on Maple Syrup

 

 

The Tree

Maple syrup is only made in North Eastern North America and is made solely from the concentration of maple sap from the maple tree. Although there are many species of maple tree that produce sap.  Predominantly, the species used to produce maple syrup is the sugar maple or Acer saccharum.  In it's raw form, maple sap fresh from the tree is usually around 2-3 percent sugar (sucrose, fructose and glucose), with the rest being pure water.  This sap and the finished product, pure maple syrup, also contains amino acids, proteins, organic acids and vitamins.  This raw sap, out of the tree is not maple syrup until it undergoes a cooking and concentration process which brings it up to 66 brix or, 66% sugar.

 

The Season

Maple syrup is harvested in the spring of the year. Although it varies depending on the season and the location, maple syrup is harvested in March and April.  This early harvest is in fact the very first agricultural crop in North America.  As the rough North American winter starts to release it's grip in the spring of the year the vast sugar woods experience warm days and cool nights. The entire maple crop has to be harvested, processed and stored in this short period of time.
 

Sap From the Tree 

This swing in temperature forces the roots of maple trees to begin drawing water from the soils up into the trunk of the tree.  As this ground water travels up the trunk it collects the stored maple sugars which were produced the previous summer through photosynthesis.  By boring a small hole in the trunk of the tree, maple syrup producers can collect this sap which has the dissolved maple sugars in it. A very small hole is bored into the outer wood of the tree 2-5 cm deep.  Traditionally a spiel was seated in the hole a bucket was placed on the spiel.  As the sap made it's way up the trunk it would drip out the hole and land in the bucket.  As time went on the bucket was replaced by a food grade plastic tubing.  If the maple producer is lucky the tubing system using gravity alone can deposit the freshly collected maple sap right into the back of their sugar house.  Many producers are not this lucky so a vacuum system is employed to pull the sap along the lines over flat sections or through dips and valleys in the sugar woods.  plastic tubing system.  Literally thousands of trees are connected together with the use of this.
 
Depending on the diameter of the tree, up to 3 taps can be placed in a single tree.  The tree is tapped in a new location every season and care is taken to not tap too close to the previous years tap hole.  The maple tree heals itself very quickly and the trees are in no way damaged or harmed during the collection of maple sap. Most sugar makers employ comprehensive programs to ensure the health of their trees and their wood lots.  Here in Nova Scotia most producers follow a set of best management practices developed specifically for the sugar woods.  Selective cutting and thinning takes place in the sugar woods throughout he summer and fall to ensure the maple tree grow up as healthy as 
possible.  Although maple stands or orchards are not fertilized in the traditional sense, some producers apply lime to the soil in order to correct the ph levels.

 

Storing Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup is just that, pure. It contains absolutely no preservatives or additives. It is 100% natural and as a result has a shelf life. Like many other food products maple syrup, once exposed to oxygen will began a natural chemical reaction which will slowly deteriorate the syrups flavour, colour and overall texture.

For many people this is not a major issue as the shelf life of pure maple syrup is relatively long and for most households, demand outstrips supply. If you purchase pure maple syrup in bulk containers there are a few simple guidelines that can be followed to ensure this pure natural product retains its high quality for as long as possible.

If the syrup is not opened it is best stored in a cool dark area, such as a closet or cupboard. Stored this way we recommend the syrup be used within six months packaged in plastic and one year packaged in glass. 

Once open, the maple syrup should be refrigerated. If the container is 1L or greater it should be frozen. We recommend that a pitcher is kept in the fridge full of syrup for day-to-day use. The open container can then be easily stored in a deep freeze at a temperature of -18°C. Pure maple syrup will not freeze solid, but becomes very thick. It will expand however, so be sure that there is sufficient room in the open container to allow for expansion. Stored under these conditions we recommend the syrup be used within one year. Freezing the syrup slows the natural deterioration of the flavour, colour and overall quality. Before using their maple syrup most people prefer to heat the syrup they keep in the refrigerator before using.

 

 

Maple Syrup Grades

With no preservatives, additives or chemicals pure maple syrup is a wild crafted natural product. If it says ‘pure’, the maple syrup you are using is 66.0 to 68.5 % sugar regardless of its colour or taste. Maple syrup is a true natural product which is only produced between the middle of March and the middle of April. The rule of thumb in the maple industry is that in the early spring when the temperatures are still cool, the sap which comes from the maple tree produces lighter syrup with a slightly milder taste.

As the season progresses and the temperatures increase, the sap begins a natural chemical transformation which makes the syrup darken and acquire a slightly stronger maple flavour. Despite this chemical transformation all colours and flavours of maple syrup contain the same amount of sugar and require the same boiling time.

Like most agricultural commodities in Canada maple syrup has different grade distinctions. In Canada the grades are; Canada No. 1, 2 and 3. The grade of the syrup is determined primarily by the maple syrups colour class. These colour classes include; extra light, light, medium, amber and dark. The colour class of maple syrup is determined by the amount of light that will pass through the syrup, also known as light transmission. The more light that passes through the maple syrup the higher the colour class will be.

So what does all this mean? Well, most people don't choose syrup because it looks good, they want it to taste good, making the real issue taste. Although lighter syrup is often coveted as higher quality because of its golden appearance, most people actually prefer the darker grades because of their more robust flavours. Most maple syrup that is made in any given year is Canada No. 1 Medium. But this is not always the case as crop yield and quality are completely dependant on the forces of nature.

Just remember this; the darker the syrup the bolder the flavour. If you like a really strong maple flavour then you would prefer the darker grades, medium and amber. If you like a syrup that is more middle of the road, try a lighter grade, light, or medium. If you enjoy pure maple syrup in your cooking or baking we recommend you use the darkest grade possible. This is because you will not require as much to have that great maple undertone in your cooking. For a table syrup the best choice is a medium grade pure maple syrup, not too strong and not too mild, just right.

At Acadian Maple we source out the highest quality, premium pure maple syrup produced in the highlands of Nova Scotia. Being a wild crafted product, pure maple syrup acquires tastes, flavours and aromas from the surrounding natural environment. As spring melt water runs over different rock & vegetation on its way to the tree roots, to become the sweet sap of the maple tree, it acquires a whole host of varying tastes and flavours distinct to each individual sugaring operation.

Only establishments that are federally registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as maple producers or packers can apply a Canadian grade to pure maple syrup. Below is a table of the Canadian grades for pure maple syrup. Any syrup produced or packaged in a federally registered establishment must bear the correct grade, colour class and license number on any container for sale. If you look closely at any container of our pure maple syrup you will find the grade, colour class, license number and batch code.

 

Canada - US Maple Syrup Grade Comparison

% Light Transmittance
Canadian Grade
Canadian Colour
American Grade
American Colour
Other
100.0 - 75.0
Canada No. 1
Extra Light
Rank A
Amber Light
AA
74.9 - 60.5
Canada No. 1
Light
Rank A
medium Amber
A
60.4 - 44.0
Canada No. 1
Medium
Rank A
Dark Amber
B
43.9 - 27.0
Canada No. 2
Amber
Rank B
For Reprocessing
C
Less than 27.0
Canada No. 3
Dark
Substandard
Substandard
D
 

Nutrirtional Information

 

Antioxidants

Maple syrup contains many natural antioxidants. Several newly identified antioxidant compounds found in maple syrup are also reported to have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties.  Maple syrup also contains anti-inflammatory compounds.

Nutrients & Vitamins

Many nutrients are naturally found in pure maple syrup, including zinc, potassium, manganese, thiamine, calcium, iron, magnesium, and riboflavin.

Zinc is not only beneficial to heart health, but it is also an antioxidant. Zinc is also involved in important bodily functions such as cellular growth and regeneration. Just a 1/4 cup serving of maple syrup provides 41% of your daily requirement of zinc. A 1/4 cup of maple syrup also provides 100% of your daily requirement of manganese, which is linked to HDL , the good cholesterol, and also known for its ability to improve overall mental stability.

Maple syrup is proven to be good for heart health due to the antioxidants and manganese. It also supports immune system health through zinc and manganese.

Maple syrup is not an allergenic food.

 
 
This is a Spanish version of the basics on maple syrup:
 Como-se-hace-la-Miel-de-Maple