Baking & Desserts

Maple syrup 101 and sweet maple syrup recipes

By: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

Photography by June Anderson Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by June Anderson

Baking & Desserts

Maple syrup 101 and sweet maple syrup recipes

By: The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

What is maple syrup?
Long before the Europeans arrived in North America, the native peoples of Eastern Canada were collecting sap from maple trees and heating it in hollowed-out logs until it was syrupy. While the early settlers learned to make maple syrup, it wasn’t until the 19th century (with the advent of metal containers) that it became a significant industry. Today, reverse osmosis machines and various types of evaporators make production efficient.

Though all trees produce sap, maple trees produce greater quantities with sweeter taste. Only a few varieties (found in southeastern Canada and northeastern United States) have the high sugar content necessary for maple syrup. Sugar maple (acer saccharum) is the most commonly tapped species; black maple (acer nigrum), red maple (acer rubrum) and silver maple (acer saccharinum) are also tapped, but to a lesser extent.

How is maple syrup made?
With spring thaw, enzymes change the starch in maple trees to sugar, which mixes with water absorbed through the roots. This sap is only sweet enough to make maple syrup a few weeks a year. Sap needs frosty nights and warm sunny days in order to flow, so production is usually in February, March and April. As soon as the weather turns warm enough for buds to form, the sap turns bitter.

Maple sap contains about 97 per cent water, so it must be boiled to transform it into syrup, which has no more than 34 per cent water. Since sap doesn’t keep, it must be boiled the day it is collected. If it is not boiled long enough, mould will form. If boiled too much, it will crystallize.

Maple syrup facts:
• Canada produces about 85 per cent of the world’s supply of maple syrup. Quebec produces more than 90 per cent of the Canadian market, while Ontario and the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) each contribute about four per cent.

• During the sugaring season, the average tree yields 35 to 50 litres of sap, which produces one to 1.5 litres of maple syrup. On average, it takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup.

• Birch syrup, made from birch trees, is used the same way as maple syrup but is more difficult to make (and this is reflected in the price). On average, it takes 80 to 100 litres of sap to produce one litre of syrup (twice that needed for maple syrup).

Grades of maple syrup
Pure maple syrup must have a sugar content of at least 66 per cent, and no additives are allowed. To ensure you are getting real maple syrup, check the label: it must bear the name, grade and colour class of syrup and the name and address of the producer or packer.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors the safety and quality of maple syrup and is responsible for its classifications. There are three grades of maple syrup with five different classes of colour.

• Canada No. 1 is divided into three classes: extra light and light are light coloured and mild flavoured; medium is also light in colour but has a rich maple flavour. This is the most popular grade for table syrup.

• Canada No. 2 (amber) is usually made later in the sugaring season and has a dark, strong flavour. It is often considered a cooking grade, though some prefer its rich flavour as a table syrup.

• Canada No. 3 (dark) is made at the end of the season. It is very dark with strong, molasses-like flavour and is used commercially.

Maple syrup products:
Maple sugar candy, with its semisoft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and fabulous flavour, is made from Canada No. 1 syrup that’s boiled, cooled, stirred and poured into moulds. These candies are good for about two weeks unless they are coated.

Maple sugar blocks are more granular then the candy and can be chipped or shaved and added to cereals or beverages.

Granulated maple sugar comes from syrup that is boiled, cooled, stirred and sifted. It makes a wonderful addition to baking and beverages.

Maple butter (cream or spread) is syrup that is cooked and stirred to give it the smooth, creamy consistency and flavour of soft maple fudge. Enjoy on toast or bagels.

Pure (natural) maple extract is a flavouring made from alcohol and sugar maple tree oils. It adds maple punch to baked goods, frosting and fudge.

Imitation maple extract uses synthetic ingredients to create flavour similar to pure maple extract.

Maple-flavoured syrup is imitation maple syrup, usually with little or no maple content. It is usually thicker, less expensive than real maple syrup and often called “syrup” or “pancake syrup” on the label.

How to store and use maple syrup
Besides being a topping for French Toast, pancakes and waffles, maple syrup is also a sweetener for applesauce, baked beans and meats. Or use it as a flavouring in baked goods, puddings and ice cream.

Maple syrup will keep, unopened, in a cool dark place indefinitely. Once opened, maple syrup must be refrigerated. If mould appears, discard the syrup immediately.

Try these delicious Tested Till Perfect recipes with maple syrup:
Maple Spice Poached Pears
Golden pears in maple-coloured syrup is an elegant, delicious dessert. Cooling the pears in the poaching liquid prevents their discolouration.

Maple Popcorn Caramel Crunch
You won't be able to resist this ultimate in caramel corn. A deep saucepan of about 16-cup (4 L) capacity is the perfect size so the caramel does not boil over. You'll need the full 10 cups (2.5 L) of popcorn to get it evenly coated.

Maple Soy-Glazed Salmon
A quick broil at the end gives this salmon a golden, glazed finish. This recipe doubles easily for a dinner party.

Maple Crunch Layer Cake
Candied maple walnuts sprinkled among the cake layers add a pleasing crunch to this towering treat.

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Maple syrup 101 and sweet maple syrup recipes

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