Late season for syrup producers
A prolonged winter means a late start to the maple syrup seaon this year.
While we have been subjected to many cold nights, the region has to be blessed with enough warm days to get the sap running.
Often referred to as the first agricultural crop of the year, maple syrup is made from the sap of primarily sugar, red and black maple trees in late winter and early spring. The basic process of tapping maple trees to collect the sap and then boiling it down to make maple syrup and sugar has endured for centuries. There have been technological advancements in the production process over the years but the unique wholesome flavour of pure maple syrup has not changed.
In Ontario, maple syrup is produced commercially wherever maples are found: from the southern tip of the province to Thunder Bay in the northwest. With a production level of close to a million litres per year, Ontario is the second largest producer of maple syrup in the country next to Québec.
It takes approximately 40 litres of maple sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup. The maple sap is collected in either buckets or by way of a pipeline that brings sap from the tree to the processing area. The sap, which comes out of the tree with a sugar content of approximately 2%, is boiled until it reaches between 66% and 67.5% sugar content. So you can see that a lot of hard work and dedication goes into each litre of maple syrup produced!
Maple syrup is a completely natural product with no additives. It is chock full of minerals and plant proteins. Research is currently underway to determine how this natural sweetener and flavour enhancing product can benefit human health.
Many maple syrup producers process the syrup into other products such as maple candies, maple butter and maple sugar.
Maple Taffy On Snow
This is the icon of the Canadian sugarbush and no trip to a sugar shack is complete without sampling this sticky gooey treat. Hot high density maple syrup is poured directly on frozen snow creating a soft taffy texture. Taffy does not keep well over time so it's typically only available at the sugarbush during the maple season or it can sometimes be found for sale at larger festivals or fairs. Our suggestion is to simply eat it as you find it because once it's gone - there won't be any more until next year.
If you have yet to try out some of the other maple products offered at your favourite Ontario maple producer this one is the second best choice only to maple taffy on snow. The consistency of maple butter or maple cream (the same product) is light and spreadable, very similar to the consistency of a light peanut butter. Its name comes from the fact that it has a "buttery" or "creamy" texture and not because it has any dairy products added to it. In fact, it has nothing at all added except 100% pure maple syrup. It is perfect as a spread on bread, pancakes, muffins, toast, and biscuits or as a dessert frosting. Take a small container to work with you one day and it's guaranteed not to last the morning.
Soft Sugar Candy
Real, pure maple candy is a real treat with a light outer shell and a creamy texture inside. It is typically made by boiling down maple syrup, stirring it, and pouring it into molds to harden. Maple candy comes in all shapes and sizes but you will most often find it formed into the shape of a maple leaf. This delicious maple product melts in your mouth and releases a rich maple flavor almost like fudge. Every year at festivals and sugar shacks across Ontario, maple candy is a staple treat.
Hard Sugar Candy
Many enjoy the melt-in-yourmouth type treats but others may prefer an all-natural candy that does not dissolve quickly. That's what these hard maple candies are designed to do - last a long time! Made entirely with pure Ontario maple syrup and usually individually packaged in the shape of small maple leaves, these candies are an ideal treat for pockets and purses. Take them on road trips, to the office, shopping, wherever you need a little sweet pick-meup on the go. They are especially handy for grandchildren just about to head home from their weekend visit.
Granulated maple sugar is the most versatile product that is made from maple syrup. Because it has no available water, this product is totally shelf stable, it will not separate or mold. It can be stored indefinitely at room temperature and with proper packaging and moisture control will not lose its granular nature. It can be used in recipes as a replacement for brown or white sugar on a one for one exchange by volume or by weight and is the healthiest of all available sugar types. It can also be used as a topping on cereal, placed in sugar straws or used anywhere other sugar would be used to add flavour or sweetness. The flavor of many products is enhanced by using maple sugar in place of white sugar and is especially valued by many consumers for its natural and sustainable origin.
We have yet to get that combination of cool nights and warm day to get the sap running