Canada 101: Maple syrup and the sweet science of sugaring off
With Canada responsible for 80 per cent of the world’s pure maple syrup production and Quebec responsible for 90 per cent of that, it’s not a surprise that many Canadians are familiar with this sweet tradition.
CTV Your Morning’s Kelsey McEwen visited Sucrerie de la Montagne in Quebec and spoke to the owner, Pierre Faucher, about the science that goes into making maple syrup.
The 41-year-old sugar shack (or maple farm) is open year round. It’s a Quebec heritage destination offering a variety of activities including carriage rides, tours, live music and pulled maple taffy. It also has a fieldstone artisan bread oven, cottage accommodation and prepared meals such as smoked maple ham.
Sap is collected traditionally at Sucrerie de la Montagne: the tree is tapped with a spout and a bucket is hung. Spouts are slightly slanted downwards so that the sap is easily able to drip into the bucket. The sap collected in the bucket is then transferred to a wood-fire evaporator where the water is boiled out and what’s left is maple syrup.
“We use our own buckets and a wood fire to cook our maple syrup like they did in the early 1900’s,” Faucher told McEwan. "That's really what it boils down to."
Faucher said the 120-acre farm taps 3,500 buckets on approximately 2, 000 maple trees. One tree produces 60 litres of maple sap which can be processed into 1.5 litres of maple syrup.
According to Faucher, maple sugar season takes place in the months of February, March and April. In warmer months, sap flows up and nourishes the entire maple tree. In the fall, the sap stops flowing and the tree becomes dormant for the winter. The sap starts flowing again after March’s full moon.
The timing of the harvest determines the colour of the maple syrup. Near the beginning of the season, the sap is very sweet and produces and almost clear syrup. Towards the end of the season, the maple syrup is usually a dark amber colour.
The farm also produces maple taffy which is a more concentrated form of syrup. The taffy is cooled over some fresh snow and usually eaten off a wooden stick.
Whether it’s syrup or taffy, it’s no wonder that sweet maple tastes like a Canadian childhood.