The History of Maple Syrup
The process of making maple syrup is a tradition of Indigenous people in various areas of what is now Canada. Before metal tools were introduced, Indigenous people used stone and bone tools to make incisions into maple trees. They collected the sap using a birch bark container called a mokuk. Some of the process by which Indigenous people reduced the sap into syrup is lost to history, however one method which may have been used is called rock boiling. First mokuks would be left to partially freeze. The frozen layer would contain mostly water, leaving the sugars in the liquid below. By removing the frozen layer on top, the liquid below is slightly concentrated. Next the mokuks would be emptied into a large wooden trough. Rocks would be heated in or by a fire. The hot rocks would be plunged into the sap in the trough and would boil the liquid. As the liquid boils, water is released in the form of steam, and sugars would begin to concentrate in the syrup left in the trough.
As early European settlers arrived in areas occupied by Indigenous groups, some settlers learned from the Indigenous people about the process of syrup making. The European settlers introduced large cast iron or copper pots (also known as kettles) to the process which helped to speed it up. Sap could be boiled more efficiently directly over the fire using the metal kettles. Maple Syrup became the preferred sweetener used by the early settlers. White sugar was highly taxed at the time and was a luxury item imported from the West Indies. Maple syrup and maple sugar could be made in the off season from farming and produced within the community.
As white sugar became less expensive, it began to replace maple syrup and maple sugar as the primary sweetener. Maple syrup production has declined to approximately one-fifth of what it was at the beginning of the 20th century.
Maple Syrup Today
The Canadian maple syrup industry accounts for approximately 75% of the world’s maple syrup production. It is the world’s largest exporter of maple products, with exports valued at $515 million in 2020. Canadian maple products were exported to 68 different countries around the world in 2020. While consumption of sweet condiments has generally declined due to health-related concerns, maple syrup is an exception. Maple sugar available for consumption more than doubled from the previous year to 0.89 kilograms in 2020.
As maple trees grow, they accumulate starch, which converts into sugar during the spring thaw and mixes with the water absorbed through tree roots to create maple sap, which generally flows between February and April each year. Producers use tubing systems, reverse osmosis and high-performance evaporators to collect sap and boil it down to create maple syrup. On average, it takes approximately 40 litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup. Canadian maple syrup products range from traditional maple syrup to maple sugar, maple butter, maple candy as well as a full range of products containing maple syrup.
The safety and quality of Canadian maple syrup is monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which ensures producers meet high federal standards. The CFIA is also responsible for the federal classification of Canadian maple syrup grades and colour descriptors, ensuring they align with standard international grading systems. There are two grade names for Canadian maple syrup: “Canada Grade A” (which is further graded into four colour classes – “Golden, Delicate Taste”, “Amber, Rich Taste”, “Dark, Robust Taste” and “Very Dark, Strong Taste” – that typically reach consumer and commercial markets) and “Canada Processing Grade”, which does not have colour classes and is often used in large-scale commercial applications.
Quebec producers, who account for 92% of Canadian production, harvested 13.2 million gallons in 2020, up 9.8% from 2019. Higher yields, due to favourable spring weather and more taps, accounted for the higher production. While prices in other maple-producing provinces are determined by producers and as a result, can vary substantially, prices in Quebec are controlled by the Régie des marchés agricoles et agroalimentaires du Québec, which helps stabilize the price from year to year. The price in Quebec for 2020 remained at $38.55 per gallon and the total value of maple products was $509.2 million.
Maple Syrup Activity Sheets
Maple Syrup Recipes
Maple Pecan Shortbread topped with Frozen Maple Parfait
FROZEN MAPLE PARFAIT
1.5 cups Hot Maple Syrup
2 cups 35% Cream
Whisk eggs in the top of a double boiler. Slowly pour in hot maple syrup while whisking constantly. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Cool mixture.
Whip cream to soft peaks. Gently fold in cream to cool maple mixture.
Portion into parfait cups & freeze.
Serve With Maple Pecan Shortbread.
MAPLE PECAN SHORTBREAD
4 Egg Yolks
8 Tblsp. Maple Syrup
2 Tsp. Vanilla extract
Cream together butter & sugar until fluffy. Scrape down sides & bottom of bowl.
Add yolks gradually, mixing after each addition. Add maple syrup & vanilla.
Mix until combined. Scrape down bowl.
Sift flour & add to mixture all at once. Mix until just combined. Do not over-mix.
Scrape down mixing bowl & add pecans. Mix until combined.
Divide dough & roll into log shapes. Chill.
Cut logs into 1/4 ” rounds.
Bake at 325 F for 10-12 minutes.
This recipe was developed by Pastry Chef Iris Roteliuk for the 40th Anniversary of the Annual Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival. Roteliuk is a Pastry Chef at Summerhill Market in Toronto.
Manoir Victoria Grilled Chicken
(From the cookbook, Maple Syrup (40 Recipes for Fine Dining at Home)
1 chicken, 3-4 pounds
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Soya sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
(Manor Victoria Maple Sauce, recipe follows)
Rinse and pat dry the chicken, cut into 4-6 serving pieces. Combine remaining ingredients and marinate chicken, cover and refrigerate, for up to 24 hours. Turn chicken pieces to ensure that they are covered with the marinade.
Preheat oven to 400F. Place chicken in an ovenproof dish and bake until tender, approximately 40-50 minutes. Baste occasionally with pan juices. Serve, napped with Maple Sauce.
Manor Victoria Maple Sauce
½ cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Soya sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste
While chicken is baking combine maple syrup, butter, Soya sauce and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced to half and thickened. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Yields 1/3 cup sauce.
8 medium carrots
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon ginger
Slice the carrots. Cook until they are tender. Melt the butter, then add the maple syrup and ginger. Simmer the carrots in maple syrup mixture until glazed.
For those with a sweet tooth!
Microwave Maple Pudding
2 cups maple syrup
1 cup milk
3 heaping teaspoons cornstarch
Mix syrup and egg well together. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk. Mix together well and put into a microwave bowl. Cook for 10 minutes at Level 8 (medium-high level), stirring every 3 minutes.
Maple Syrup Cake
1/3 cup shortening
½ cup sugar
¾ cup maple syrup
2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
3 egg whites
Maple Icing (recipe follows)
¾ cup chopped walnuts
Cream the shortening and sugar. Stir in maple syrup. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into mixture.
Turn on to greased 9-inch square pane lined with wax paper (or parchment). Bake in preheated 350F oven for 45-50 minutes. Turn out onto cooling rack, remove the paper and cool. Spread top and sides of cake with the maple icing; sprinkle chopped nuts.
2 cups maple syrup
Pinch of salt
2 egg whites
Boil maple syrup until it spins a thread (232F on candy thermometer). Pour slowly over the stiffly beaten salted egg whites, beating constantly with hand mixer or wire whisk. Continue beating until mixture is stiff enough to stand up in soft peaks.