In our house, we try to go easy on sugar. It’s a rare occasion when soft drinks are brought under our roof and we usually limit consumption of them to the time or two per week that we eat restaurant meals.
When we do have something sugary, we go for the good stuff. Every once in a while, we’ll make some pancakes and nothing goes better with pancakes than real butter and real maple syrup – no margarine, no brown high-fructose corn syrup – the real deals.
Here on the blog, we’ve looked at butter, and I imagine we’ll eventually get around to examining margarine, but what exactly is the sweet nectar of the forest that perfects pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast goodies? Turning to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we find maple syrup defined as “syrup made by concentrating the sap of maple trees and especially the sugar maple” with it’s first know usage, as a word, dating to 1792.
As is the case with coffee, and as indicated in the definition above, there is some processing involved to end up with a recognizable product. According to the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, the process is not overly complicated:
- Sugar Maples of the appropriate age and size are tapped in January and February. A bucket hangs below the tap to collect sap.
- In March and April, trees begin pumping groundwater upward to mix with starch stored for winter and sap starts flowing. The sap is collected in storage tanks before being taken to the sugarhouse where it is reduced to syrup in a heated evaporator. Before being prepared for customers, the syrup is filtered and graded.
- By May, it is time for the taps to be removed.
According to the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers’ Association, Maple syrup is only produced in North America. There are 19 U.S. States and 3 Canadian provinces where it is made. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. Each tree provides roughly 10-12 gallons of sap per year, or about a quart of syrup.
Though we have it rarely, our favorite breakfast entree to pair with maple syrup is pancakes. We’ve also been known to love it on French toast. Too rare is the restaurant that serves waffles and real maple syrup, but when we happen upon one, there will usually be at least one of us who takes that option. Please let us know, in the comments, about your favorite maple syrup pairing.