It's National Maple Syrup Day! Maple syrup is a distinctly North American product. Canada, the largest supplier of maple syrup, produces over 5 million gallons of it each year!
Native Americans were the first to harvest and boil the sap of the maple tree into a thick syrup-a process that was documented and adopted by early settlers in the 1600s. Tapping a maple tree does no permanent damage to the tree and only 10% of the sap that is produced in a year is actually collected. Many maple trees have been tapped for 150 years or more! Did you know that it takes 30-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup? Maple syrup can also be boiled down to produce maple cream, maple sugar, and maple sugar candy.
Whether you like your maple syrup as a topping on pancakes, waffles, or vanilla ice cream, enjoy some today in honor of National Maple Syrup Day!
Some years ago we toured a maple syrup farm in New Hampshire and got to sample all the various grades of Maple Syrup. Turned out the B grades are actually darker and sweeter than Grade A. It didn't mean really they were of any less quality. The scale is really that of color (darkness). But consumers being consumers we all remember that A is excellent, B is good, C is average as we were taught in school so you'll only find Grade A on store shelves.
I thought there was an even higher rating of Grade A fancy? I think the lightest most delicately flavored ones are from the first part of the tapping season. They are the most expensive. As the season continues, they get darker. I don't know why exactly, probably the way the plant is "waking up" and minerals and other things are moving more through the tree affecting the sugar and color of the sap. I think the quality IS considered "different" since the taste changes and composition changes. I imagine the higher sugar content would almost caramelize during the process of boiling it to a syrup...maybe that is why the color is darker. I don't know if the sap itself looks any different. I wonder if the maple sugar made from that sap is darker, too...it seems like it would be. The kind I usually see is almost the color of beach sand. I suppose the taste of light or dark syrup is a matter of preference...but the rarer kinds (the lighter ones) are usually most expensive.
I don't know why NOW would be maple syrup day!! The trees are tapped when the days are warm and the nights are cold...like the end of march around my town.
btw, I LOOOOVE real maple syrup. I use it in different recipes where it calls for white or brown sugar.) Pecan pie is awesome with maple syrup in it. It is good on ice cream, too! My husband has even used it in coffee! (I don't like sweetened coffee.) I almost never order pancakes or waffles out at restaurants because they usually serve maple-flavored corn syrup. yuck!