Indian Sugar Camp, 1853, Captain Seth Eastman
Maple Syrup Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"There is in some parts of New England, a kind of tree whose juice that weeps out of its incision, if it is permitted to exhale away the superfluous moisture, doth congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance."
~ Robert Boyle, 1663
Get out the syrup! It's time for some "sweet and saccharin substance" on your pancakes, French toast, and waffles! Or even some maple sugar candy! Maple syrup was first collected and used by the indigenous peoples of North America, who reduced the sugary water by freezing it and discarding the ice or boiling off the water to make maple sugar. Alternating freeze and thaw temperatures are necessary to create the pressure which causes the sap to
flow when the tree is tapped - which in North America is usually between February and April. Maple syrup contains a wide variety of polyphenols and volatile organic compounds which give it its distinctive flavour including: maple furanone, strawberry furanone, and maltol (with an odour of cotton candy), along with a newly discovered compound named "quebecol," created when the sap is boiled. Holiday baking is a good time to use the year's harvest, particularly for seasonal treats such as the Sugar Maple Pie, traditionally enjoyed in the largest syrup producing areas in Canada, Quebec, and the Northeastern United States, Vermont, the biggest producers of maple syrup in their respective countries. Recipe included! 🥞 🍁 🥧 🍁 🧇
Maple Sugar Jig
Maple syrup comes from the sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees (although it can also be made from other maple species as well).
In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. Maple syrup can be boiled further to produce maple cream, maple sugar, and maple candy. Usually a maple tree must be at least 30 years old and 12 inches in diameter before it is tapped. It takes 30-50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, and one gallon of maple syrup to produce eight pounds of maple candy or sugar.
Indigenous peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first groups known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar. According to aboriginal oral traditions, as well as archaeological evidence, maple tree sap was being processed into syrup long before Europeans arrived in the region. Aboriginal tribes developed rituals around sugar-making, celebrating the Sugar Moon (the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance.
For more on the new maple syrup grading system (especially for connoisseurs who formerly fancied Grade B), click here. And for a recipe for a signature dish from Quebec, Canada, click the Maple Sugar pie!