How Maple Syrup is made
There are over 150 species of maple trees around the world and only a few of them can be used to make maple syrup. The sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is used most widely and makes the best maple syrup here in Canada.
The tradition of tapping sugar maple trees started with the Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, including the Abenaki, Haudenosaunee and Mi’kmaq who were first to tap the sweet liquid to preserve meats and make syrup.
March and April are the months when the temperatures start to rise above 10°C throughout the day. When the nights are below freezing, water from the soil is absorbed into the sugar maple. The warmer temperatures in the day create pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree where you tap to collect the sap.
The length of sap flow generally lasts 6 weeks ending in April. Depending on the spring, each tree could produce about 35-50 liters of sap! The maple trees are tapped and the sap is collected in buckets which are collected when they are full and emptied into an evaporator.
The sugar shack along with evaporators changed production of maple syrup in the 1800’s. This allowed better storage and filtration, easier bottling and it decreased the length of time it took to boil the sap.
Small batches of sap are boiled constantly until enough water has evaporated to reach a sugar content percentage of 66.9 Brix or 219°F (104°C). Sterilized glass bottles are then filled with the finished maple syrup, labeled and distributed to the market.
There are 4 colours or grades of maple syrup (gold, amber, dark and very dark) and despite the wide range in colour and flavour, all four are produced the same way. The colour or grade of the syrup can change based on the soil and the deeper into spring the sap flows.
GOLDEN – Golden comes from sap harvested at the very beginning of the season. It has a distinguished light golden hue with a sweet, vanilla flavour. It is mostly used to sweeten yogurt or drizzle on baked goods.
AMBER – This syrup has a pure, rich taste. Full of maple flavour and the most popular colour. You will want to drizzle this over all of your pancakes.
DARK – Dark has a more robust, caramelized flavour, is well-suited for baking and cooking with.
VERY DARK – Harvested at the end of the sugaring-off season and has the strongest maple flavour. It is mostly used in baking and in sauces.
At the end of each season when the buds begin to open, it is time to pull out all the spiles and pack up to prepare for the following spring.
Cheers to another successful Canadian Harvest!
Follow us @summerhillkt on Instagram and @SummerhillMarket on TikTok for more. For more on maple, read The Story of The Sugar Bush.