IT'S HERE!!!!! LET'S HEAD TO THE SUGAR BUSH!!!!!!
As proud Canadians, it is once again the time of year that Maple Syrup producers head to their Sugar Shack and stoke up the fire in preparation to harvest the Maple Sap that is beginning to flow. A tradition that many Canadians have had the priviledge to experience in their lives, including myself. A truly unique experience.
I had the privildge of experiencing first hand the process and hard work involved to be able to enjoy that Maple Syrup over my bowl of vanilla ice cream every spring. The payoff was well worth the effort. A payoff not in dollars in my pocket, but the delectible dessert at the dinner table and sharing with family and friends. Great memories for me. I lived on a farm and our driveway was lined with mature Sugar Maple Trees. Trees that my Great Grandfather, Grandfather and Father tapped annually. And of course, my Father continued the tradition as he shared the tasks of the tapping of the trees, the gathering of the sap, the big task of keeping the outside fire burning hot, and watching the sap to ensure that it did not over cook, or under cook. We had a small operation that supplied our family with enough syrup for us to enjoy. The syrup did not last long, and it is a treat we all looked forward to every year.
Maple Syrup operations today are still very much alive in Ontario and Quebec, and most still use the old fashioned way of heating the sap with wood and hanging buckets from the trees. Some Sugar Shacks use stainless steel evaporators. Ideal conditions that allow the sap to flow require nighttime temperatures to be a few degreees below freezing and daytime temperatures to be a few degrees above freezing. It's the temperature contrasts that really get the sap flowing. So that means the season usually runs from mid March to mid April, depending on the temperatures at that time. A good thing to note is that there is no permanent damage to the trees being tapped :), and the Maple trees are usually 30 years old before they are tapped. Most Maple Syrup is from Sugar Maple sap as the sugar content is 2%, which is higher than other Maple trees.
Did you know:
-1 gallon of Maple Syrup weighs 11 pounds
-40 gallons of Maple sap boil down to 1 gallon of syrup
-the sugar content in the sap is 2-21/2% and sugar content of Maple Syrup is at least 66%
-Grade B Maple Syrup, the darkest (and cheapest) Maple Syrup has the most maple-y flavour
-Grade A Maple Syrup is Amber in colour, as it is made from the thinner-early season sap, and it is better for drizzling straight on fruit, pancakes or ice cream
NOT YOUR EVERYDAY AUNT JEMIMA PANCAKE SYRUP!!!!!!!
As a child me and my family enjoyed Maple Syrup many ways, not just as a Syrup. My Mom prepared Maple Breakfast Sausages, Maple glazes, Maple granola, Maple butter, Maple chocolate chip pancakes and scones, Maple baked beans that were INCREDIBLE, and the forever favourites, Maple Pecan Pie and Maple fudge!!!!! Thank goodness we had chores at the barn every night or weight would have been a definite problem!!!!!
I would like to share an experience I had when I was vacationing in Florida. We had tickets to catch a hockey game in Tampa, so we headed down to Channelside Drive early to get a good parking spot before the crowd arrived. We came upon a restaurant named Hat Tricks, so we decided to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a glass of wine. To my surprise, this awesome little establishement offered Sweet Potatoe Fries with Maple Syrup on their menu. I couldn't believe my eyes, so of course, I placed my order. THEY WERE INCREDIBLE!!!! We still talk about Hat Tricks and their Sweet Potatoe Fries and we also visit this restaurant every year when we are in Florida. You MUST check it out!!!
Maple Syrup in Canada is a part of our Heritage, and something that everyone should experience. So the next time you are looking for something different to do, take a drive to the nearest Sugar Bush, and experience first hand the tradition that so many have worked hard to pass down to the next generation. It truly is an wonderful experience.