Maple syrup is an ingredient which is mostly associated with pancakes, waffles and dessert recipes. There are various states and provinces that produce maple syrup and these include Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire in the United States and Quebec and Ontario in Canada.
In a nutshell, maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees which is then boiled to evaporate the water. The sap has the consistency of water and contains about 2% of sucrose. It takes around 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. The trees that yield the best syrup are sugar maple and black maple. The harvest season usually start around February until April. The season, which is also known as the sugaring season, usually lasts for a month but if the weather is right, it can be extended.
It is best to collect sap when the temperature is freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The harvesting season usually starts in the spring or prior to it when temperatures can rise up to 40 degrees and cool off into the 20s at night. The conditions, particularly the weather, need to be right for maple syrup to have a great flavor. Aside from that, the perfect climate is needed for the trees to grow.
Maple trees are tapped to find out it if is ready to be harvested for sap. A small hole is drilled and a spile is inserted into the hole. The conditions are right if sap drips out of the hole. People let the syrup drip into a bucket but businesses that produce maple syrup insert a special tube to it so that it will flow to a holding tank directly. It can take weeks to collect the sap needed to make gallons of maple syrup. You will need at least 30 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. It usually depends on the amount of maple sugar in the sap. If it has less maple sugar, you will need more gallons of sap.
As mentioned, the sap is collected into a holding tank. It will then be placed in the sugar house where it will be poured into an evaporator. A maple sugar evaporator is designed to get rid of gallons of water so that the sap gets concentrated and turned into maple syrup. This process is called ‘boiling down.’ Individuals who harvest sap for their own use don’t have evaporators. Instead, they use a stove to boil it down.
The sugar becomes more concentrated when the water is boiled off. Because it contains nitre or sugar sand, the syrup will be filtered. It is an important step as these can affect the taste of the syrup. When the maple syrup has been filtered, it is transferred in bottles or jars and sealed. There are people with maple trees at home who harvest for fun. If you have a lot of maple trees to harvest though, you should consider selling it to your friends and neighbors.
Maple syrup that is produced at the start of the season has a lighter color and milder flavor. This syrup is called Light Amber. As the harvesting season progresses, the color of the syrup gets darker and its maple taste stronger. Sap harvested mid-season is called Medium Amber and late in the season is labelled Dark Amber. The syrup with the darkest color and strongest flavor is known as Grade B syrup. It is important to keep in mind that the different grades of maple syrup do not indicate its quality. You should choose maple syrup depending on your preference. The most preferred grade is Light Amber because of its subtle flavors.