Maple syrup being poured onto spoon
The Intricate Art Of Making Maple Syrup
By Dainius Vaitiekunas
Maple syrup is one of the world's finest sweeteners, and it has several health benefits, as it includes minerals like copper or zinc and also has high antioxidant activity. However, it is still not a staple of most diets, as the intricate preparation process remains largely natural to this day, leading to a premium price range.
The highly prized maple syrup can only come from a 40-year-old Acer saccharum (or sugar maple), a tree that grows only in the northeast regions of the U.S. and around the Great Lakes in Canada. Additionally, its sap can only be collected during a short season of a few months at the end of each winter, as it needs cold nights and sun during the day.
Around the end of February, a sugarmaker starts selecting a maple tree, based on its size and age, before collecting the sap by either making holes in the tree and hanging a bucket, or using pipes to push the sap directly to the tanks in the sugarhouse. Most maple sap is collected until the first buds appear, although some exquisite syrups are made using only the virgin sap from the first few days.
Once all the sap is collected, the maple sap, which contains only 2% sugar, is boiled down until it reaches 67% sugar. The remaining syrup is then purified by special filters and can finally be graded based on its color, which determines the flavor profile: the darker the syrup, the more pronounced the syrupy notes.