Things You Didn't Know About Maple Syrup

Anyone who's ever had real maple syrup will tell you that the corn syrup-based knock-offs commonly sold at the grocery stores just don't compare. Real maple syrup, dark or light, has the perfect amount of sweetness and a rich, complex flavor.

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While Vermont is the biggest U.S. producer of the amber elixir, more than 80 percent of the world's maple syrup comes from Canada, and making it is a time-honored tradition there. The process takes patience and skill, according to Danielle Pépin, marketing and innovation agent at the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. "The maple syrup production process gets its start from one of nature's true phenomena," she says. "As water from soil absorbs into the maple tree during a cold spring night, warmer temps during the day create pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree, making it easier to collect maple sap. The sap is gathered over 12 to 20 days, usually between March and late April, according to the region. Then, the tapping process begins; the sap is transported to a sugar house where it is boiled down until it becomes syrup."

Even people who adore real maple syrup sometimes don't know about other maple products, like butter or sugar. Maple butter isn't a dairy product; the product gets its name because it is creamy, like butter. Maple sugar, much like cane sugar, can be found in many different consistencies, from large chunks (and candies shaped like maple leaves, Santas, and such) to finely ground powder that's similar to confectioners' sugar.

Unlike cane sugar, which can be heavily processed, maple syrup offers a purer alternative. "White sugar is typically derived from sugar cane and is processed and purified before being sold," says Pépin. "Because maple syrup is not processed, it contains potentially beneficial vitamins and minerals like manganese, zinc, calcium, and potassium, making it a great sugar alternative."

But don't worry; even though your syrup is preservative-free, it will still keep for quite some time. "As long as the container is not open, pure maple syrup can be stored at room temperature. Once opened, keep the syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator and use it within a period of three to four months," says Pépin. "Maple syrup freezes very well. However, the duration of freezing should not exceed 12 months in order to retain ideal flavors and texture. Also, slow defrosting is recommended, in the refrigerator for three to four days."

If you love maple syrup, read on for more things you didn't know about maple syrup.