They were the first to recognize sap as a source of energy and nutrition, using it for food and medicine. Incisions were made with tomahawks into maple trees, then they used reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into birch bark buckets.
The sap was condensed into syrup by evaporating the excess water one of two ways. In winter, the sap would freeze at night and in the morning they would remove the frozen water. In summer, they would plunge hot stones in the bark buckets to boil the off the liquid. This was then used as a sweetener and a beverage. Later on in time, the sap was boiled in a pot to condense it. The legend goes that one day the pot was neglected and boiled too long. Voila! Maple syrup was born. It takes a staggering 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
When the settlers came to North America they were fascinated by this delicious natural sweetener and used it instead of sugar, which came from the West Indies and was very expensive as well as highly taxed. Eventually, as the price of sugar fell, so did the production of maple syrup. Now it’s only about a fifth of what it was in the beginning of the 20th century.
Today, Quebec produces 75% of the world’s maple syrup, followed by Vermont and Maine. Production is concentrated February to April, depending on weather conditions. Freezing nights and warm days are needed to induce sap flows.
So what are the differences in maple syrup and which is better? The USDA has four grades of maple syrup based on color and flavor.
?Grade A Light Amber is very light with a mild, delicate maple flavor. This is best for making maple candy and maple cream.
?Grade A Medium Amber is a bit darker with a bit more maple flavor and is the most popular grade of table syrup.