It's that collected sap - yes, straight tree sap - that is concentrated through a cooking process into maple syrup. Straight from the tree, sap is mostly water. There is only a small amount of sucrose in the sap (1 to 4 percent) and the distinctive flavors come from a small amount of enzymes and other elements from the tree. To get syrup from the sap, the sap has to be cooked down to remove the water content. It takes 10 gallons of sap to make a single quart of syrup!
There are several classes and colors of maple syrup, and they vary according to the origin of the syrup. Canadian produced maple syrup is either 1, 2, or 3, and within that, Canadian 1 is either Extra light (AA), Light (A) or Medium (B), Canadian 2 is Amber (C), and Canadian 3 is Dark (D). In the US, there is grade A and grade B Grade A is further divided into Light Amber, Medium Amber, and Dark Amber, while grade B is just darker than grade A Dark Amber. Generally speaking, lighter grades and classes are for pancakes and such, medium for cooking and baking, and dark for commercial flavoring uses. Also, syrup grades roughly correspond to when in the season the sap was harvested - earlier harvested sap produces lighter grades of syrup and later harvested sap produces darker grades.
Good quality maple syrup is not cheap, admittedly. But given the amount of work that goes into it, it's rather worth it. Maple sugaring is labor intensive and time consuming. It's also an ingrained part of the culture in northern New England and Canada, especially Quebec. It's a product, yes, but it's also a cherished tradition.
Maple syrup is, of course, a delicious breakfast treat. My daughter even occasionally likes to have some pancakes with her syrup. But there is more to do with maple syrup and maple sugar than pour it over waffles and French toast. I like it drizzled on slices of roasted acorn squash, and whipped into mashed sweet potatoes as well as the following mayple syrup recipes.
This simple treat is so much fun, especially for the kids. Granted you need "fresh snow" - but shaved ice will do.
1 quart maple syrup
Fresh snow or shaved ice
Serves 8 to 10
Single pie crust
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the pie crust and line a pie plate. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour into the pie shell. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool and serve with fresh whipped cream.
1 whole pork tenderloin
3 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons coarse grained Dijon mustard
Fresh sage for garnish
1 whole chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds, quartered
1 fresh orange
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
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