6 Feb
2017

Let the Trees Share their Wealth

Maple syrup is another sweetener whose beginnings were with the indigenous people of North America, and later adopted by European settlers.  Maple was used by settlers primarily as a source of concentrated sugar because cane sugar had to be otherwise imported.

While the retrieval of maple has always been done by boring and tapping the tree trunk, processing methods have been refined over the years.  In the 1850’s, flat sheet metal pans replaced iron kettles for boiling as the increased surface area made evaporation faster.  In 1872, a firebox was developed that shortened the boiling time considerably.  And in the early 1900’s, the bottom of the pan was bent into flues to increase the surface area of heating to further speed up evaporation.

Collection methods have also been modified from buckets to plastic bags, and tractors allow for delivery of larger quantities of maple to the evaporator at a faster pace.  Filtration methods have been developed that eliminate
contamination and heating methods are more efficient.  Plastic tubing methods have been perfected that allow the maple to be pumped from the tree directly to the evaporator.

The Process

Maple tree tap

Making maple syrup is really quite simple.  Sap is collected from the tree, usually sugar maple, black maple or red maple, and heated to evaporate the water and leave a thick syrup.  The boiling process is monitored to ensure that the sugar content is at the correct concentration to prevent crystallization or spoilage.  Many large producers use reverse osmosis to separate the water from the sap.

Maple trees must reach an age of 30 years to be useful for syrup production.  Maple season is typically in the spring, and each tree can be tapped one to three times per season depending on the size of the tree.  Tapping is only productive during the daytime when the sap rises up the trunk with the warmer temperature.

Today, Canada produces approximately 80% of the world’s maple syrup.

Making the Grades

The grading of maple syrup was revised in 2015 to eliminate Grade B and C and create four unique yet overlapping Grades of A.  When you head to your grocer to buy maple syrup, you will now see the folllowing grades:

  • Grade A: Golden Color and Delicate Taste
    • Usually from the first tap in colder climates.  Has a light flavor that can easily be overcome with other
      The Grades

      foods.

  • Grade A: Amber Color and Rich Taste
    • Mid-season tap, more flavorful and well-used in baking and cooking.
  • Grade A: Dark Color and Robust Taste
    • Flavor is similar to that of brown sugar.  Can be used for a tasty glaze for meat or a flavorful BBQ sauce.
  • Grade A: Very Dark and Strong Taste
    • Last tap of the season, the strongest tasting.  The flavor is very similar to that of molasses.

Why is it Good for You?

Maple syrup provides significant levels of manganese and riboflavin with moderate levels of zinc and calcium.  It also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Its sugar base is comprised of sucrose and water, with small amounts of glucose and fructose.  Maple syrup is a sugar product and is best used in moderation with other sweeteners.

GMO’s may be an issue

Because maple trees have to be 30 years old or more to produce maple syrup, the  likelihood of GM maple trees being introduced to the market is very small.
If, however, you are not buying 100% maple syrup you need to pay attention to the ingredients.  Brands like Aunt Jemima contain zero maple syrup.  Their primary ingredient is corn syrup to make the syrup base, which as you know is derived from corn.  Over 90% of corn crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, making it very likely that your “maple syrup” is indeed GMO.

Buying non-GMO Maple Syrup

You might ask yourself why it would be necessary to purchase non-GMO Verified maple syrup when the trees are not GM.  If it is non-GMO verified, it ensures that there are no products used in the process that could potentially contaminate the syrup during tapping or production.

Visit my Non-GMO Maple Syrup Review Blog to find it!

 

 

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