Monday, February 16, 2009

Quebec maple syrup—the flow is on!

Maple syrup production occurs just once a year for 6 to 8 weeks in mid-February through April. Maple syrup is made from the sap of the sugar maple tree, and that sap will run when the daily temperatures move above and below freezing.

Maple syrup production requires optimal temperatures and sugar maple trees, and thus, can only be made is a small geographic area of northeastern North America. Quebec produces more than 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup, equal to 93 percent of Canadian production.

"On average, Quebec maple producers will make about 70 million pounds of maple syrup each year,” says Joan Kimball of the Quebec maple syrup producers' "Do More with Maple” campaign. “We celebrate the maple season and recognize that real maple syrup is one of nature’s gifts.”To collect the sap to make the syrup, producers insert a tap into the tree (as pictured). Commercial maple syrup producers use gravity-fed plastic tubing and pipelines and vacuum pumps to collect the sap. The maple sap is boiled and evaporated to make maple syrup. Maple syrup is made when the sugar density reaches 66 percent. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup. Finished maple syrup is filtered and then graded based on color and flavor. In general, lighter colored maple syrups have a milder flavor while darker maple syrups have a stronger flavor.

In addition to maple syrup, Quebec maple suppliers produce maple butters, maple concentrates, maple flake and sugars, and maple vinegar. “In Quebec, maple syrup is not limited to pancakes,” notes Kimball. “Quebec producers have developed products that showcase maple’s diverse applications—from baked goods to candies to salad dressings.”

While many table syrups claim maple flavor, Kimball says there is no substitute for the real thing. “Real maple syrup comes from the annual sap flow of the sugar maple trees, not from a laboratory. Real maple syrup is a healthy, natural product and the flavor is distinct and pleasing.”

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