This is part of a series on sugars and sweeteners of all kinds – the good, the bad, and the toxic.
When I was in elementary school in Canada, we took a field trip to see how maple syrup was produced. I find there is something fascinating about the process of inserting a tap into a tree trunk, hanging a bucket to collect the dripping fluid, and boiling it down to make delicious maple syrup. Since it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of the final product, you have to wonder how maple syrup was originally discovered by native North Americans, many centuries ago. After all, the sap itself can’t be very sweet if it needs to be reduced that much to produce maple syrup.
|Tapping Maple Trees in the Spring|
|Sap into Syrup the Old-Fashioned Way|
Maple Syrup: Grades A, B, and c
Real maple syrup is 100% boiled maple sap with nothing added. It comes in various grades. You might think these relate to quality, but they are just different types. Canada and the United States have lightly different grading systems. In both, grade A indicates a lighter syrup from sap gathered early in the tapping season. Grades B and C – from sap gathered later in the season – are darker. Choose whichever taste you like best.
Is what you’re buying really maple syrup?
And then there is fake maple syrup – a totally different product. I remember years ago wanting to order pancakes and maple syrup in an Israeli restaurant. I naively asked the waitress if they were serving it with real maple syrup. “Oh, yes,” she replied earnestly, “the cook makes if fresh in the kitchen!”
Well, Israel isn’t the best place to get real maple syrup, but then again, neither is your average supermarket. Some common maple syrup products contain little or no maple syrup. Take Aunt Jemima, for instance. It’s made from:
|Aunt Jemima "maple syrup" ingredients|
I like to pick some up whenever I get a hankering for some sodium hexametaphosphate.
Photo credits: Tree tapping photo - Robyn Gallant. Boiling the sap – Michael Maniezzo
Also in this series: