I discovered a maple syrup shack which offered a lunch of typical specialties as well as an approach on the manufacture of maple syrup. I really liked this place. It’s true that it’s very touristy but the atmosphere here is great and despite everything, it remains authentic. I also got to learn more about this product which I love as you may know from a previous post about it.
I read on one of the explanation posters on their walls that maple syrup was made by Native Americans long before white people arrived in Canada. They had accidentally discovered the slightly sweet taste of maple sap and learned how to extract it to make maple sugar through evaporation. It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that Quebecers really took advantage of it with the appearance of the first sugar shacks. Today, it has become a staple on a trip to Quebec, a typical and local specialty that you absolutely must try in this region or anywhere in Canada really.
They showed me that its manufacture requires special climatic conditions (freezing at night, thawing during the day) and is done over a short period of the year. The sap or maple water is collected using a torch that is inserted into the tree and then boiled in order to concentrate the sugar it contains after the water has evaporated. Depending on the heating temperature, different products are obtained, starting from the “coldest” temperature (above 100 anyhow) they are: maple syrup, maple butter, maple taffy, hard maple sugar, granulated maple syrup.
While there are still sugar shacks that make syrup in the traditional way, many companies have had to use more efficient, automated systems in order to produce syrup in larger quantities but I visited an old traditional shack where they still obtain 1 liter of maple syrup from 40 liters of sap.
In Canada there are regulations for classifying maple syrup which provides for two categories, N1 and N2, depending on the purity of the product as well as 5 color classes: extra-clear, clear, medium, amber and dark.
Colors depend on the time of year the product is made.
I personally generally choose a light or medium maple syrup. In fact, the clearer the maple syrup, the better its quality. The darker it is, the more it will taste caramelized and lose all the flavors of maple such as the industrialized ones.
When you buy maple syrup, make sure that the label says “maple syrup” and that it does come from Quebec but also that the name and address of the producer are clearly indicated. If one of these three elements is missing, you will probably be dealing with a product containing a mixture of several maples, of different quality or better yet, very little or no maple sap at all.
Unfortunately, outside of Canada this is all too often the case…many maple syrups are made in the United States for instance and they have no resemblance to the real Quebec product.
It can be stored in a cool, dry place. In a closet, for example. Once opened, it must be placed in the refrigerator. Note that it can also be stored in the freezer. It does not harden but thickens. It will then have to be allowed to thaw, naturally if possible, to be able to use it.
It can be used in many ways. The best known and most traditional is undoubtedly on waffles, pancakes and bread. But it can also be used as a partial replacement for sugar in pastry recipes: in cookie dough for example.
Maple syrup goes perfectly with rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, apples, but also with salty foods such as ham and chicken. You can also pour it over yogurt or cottage cheese and sprinkle with some fresh fruit or cereals!