Next to hockey, maple syrup is the pride of Canada. It’s a naturally sweet compliment to any breakfast food, and a key ingredient in many delicious maple-flavoured recipes. It’s also a part of Canadian history. The process of creating maple syrup from sap has been recorded over 300 years ago, when European settlers first came to Canada and saw aboriginal people making sugar out of sap.

The sugar maple tree is the usual and most common tree for extracting sap for maple syrup. The aboriginals started by cutting a slanted gash in the tree and inserting a chip of wood. Birch bark buckets were placed below to collect the dripping sap. Filling hollowed out logs with the sap and adding hot stones boiled out the water until the sugar was made.

Today, Canada is responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s supply. Southern Canada has the sugar maple trees and the ideal weather patterns (cool nights and warm days that trigger the natural flow of tree sap) that allow for commercial production. It takes 40 litres of sap to create one litre of syrup, and the usual flow of sap only lasts four to six weeks per year. Once the trees begin to bud in the spring, sap removal stops.

Maple syrup comes in many grades and colours, and is available at well stocked grocery stores. Canada #1 Grade comprises extra light (AA), light (A) and medium (B) colours. Canada #2 Grade is of an amber (C) colour and Canada #3 Grade a dark (D) colour. The amber-coloured variety is ideal for cooking, while the light colours of syrup are good for baking and making other maple products. All of them are exceptional and flavourful sugar substitutes to add to the breakfast table.

Liisa Sahamies