The nectar of the gods or as close to it as you can get anyway, how is maple syrup made?
It may not have the divine and magical powers the Olympian gods had, but some maple syrup tastes like it probably would come close.
The first people who figured out the wonderful offerings of the sugar maple tree were the indiginous people of North America.
One of the myths from Native American folklore regarding the maple tree is that the maple tree was helped by the woodpecker when the tree was infested with bugs and grubs and no one else would help.
Years later the woodpecker needed help because of the lack of water due to a long period without rain.
The woodpecker talking to his old friend the maple tree explained his plight.
The maple tree, remembering the help he received from the woodpecker, told him to peck holes in his truck for a drink of maple sap.
The woodpecker was grateful, and this is how it was known that the sugar maple tree can be tapped for a delicious sap flow of a luscious liquid.
True or not it is a fact that 98% of the sap contained in the maple tree is water with only 2% as sugar.
After processing, the sap removed will be 67% sugar content and 33% water; it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to create one gallon of real maple syrup.
Buying Maple Syrup
We can buy maple syrup in Jordan, but it comes at a premium price, so I normally bring my maple syrup with me when I travel to the States.
In fact my suitcase usually has all kinds of random things I bring with me from the States.
Things normally that are unavailable in Jordan, or that are crazy expensive here.
But when it comes to maple syrup it is one of those things worth carrying and risking being overweight with my luggage.
Because good maple syrup is a must in everyone’s life.
Generally the highest quality maple syrup comes at the beginning of the season.
It is lighter in color, and has a very delicate, subtle and complex flavor profile.
As the season moves on, the syrup becomes thicker and darker in color, with a more intense taste.
These different stages are labeled with different grades.
With the lightest considered the best, and the lower darker grades less desirable.
The new grading system is as follows, all of which are Grade A:
- Golden Color, Delicate Taste
- Amber Color, Rich Taste
- Dark Color, Robust Taste
- Very Dark Color, Strong Taste
The processing grade is normally used in food production.
Everyone has their own idea of what is best and tastiest to them.
In fact I kind of like the more robust flavors of the darker grades.
Taking place in the sugarbush, a forest that is primarily made up of sugar maple trees, the sap is later processed in what is known as a sugarhouse, by a person known as a sugarmaker.
Normally the production season, known as sugaring season, starts in late February.
This is when a farmer taps the trees about waist height, which involves drilling small holes in the trunk.
Plastic tubing is then often attached to the spouts that have been attached into the tree.
These are run to a central location where all the sap can be collected.
When the temperature begins to warm up above freezing the sap begins to flow through the tubes to collection points and stored in storage tanks.
This allows receiving a large volume of sap to be processed in the sugar house as and when the sap is warm enough to pass from tree to tank.
As the temperature rises and falls, the sap will correspondingly flow and stop depending on the weather conditions.
Once they collect the sap and it has been transferred to the sugarhouse it is placed in an evaporator.
This is a shallow pan that has changed very little over the years where the water in the sap is boiled off leaving a concentrated pure maple syrup.
Next the syrup is filtered, very often using reverse osmosis.
The maple syrup is bottled according to grade, with the processing grade being used to make maple products.
Most syrup producers are infinitely proud of the products they produce; many of the companies that produce maple syrup started as and in some cases still are family businesses.
The pride in product is high, with the vast majority of syrups being produced to a very high standard.
There are several grades of maple syrup depending on what point in the season they are produced.
People who like maple syrup have their own favorite flavors and ideas about what the ideal syrup should taste like.
The bottom line is to choose the one you like best, and enjoy it!