It is the last Monday in March and I am keeping with the festival theme that has organically developed this month. This Meatless Monday post salutes a sap. The coming of spring means it’s maple syrup time!
Maple syrup comes from maple trees (surprising I know!) and is found in the eastern seaboard of Canada and the U.S. The province of Quebec and state of Vermont are amongst the most noted producers of commercially available maple syrup.
Maple syrup was originally used by the Indigenous people of North America as both food and medicine. When the Europeans came they adopted the tradition of making and consuming tree sap for use in their food. Basically what happens is this: An incision is made in the trunk of the maple tree, a process known as tapping. A spout is inserted into the hole and a bucket is left to hang while the liquid drips out. The buckets are collected and the contents boiled down to a condensed syrup that is used to make all manner of maple products.
syrup, granules, candy, butter
Though maple syrup is one of the natural sweeteners in the pantry of a vegetarian/vegan, it hasn’t always been devoid of animal product. Lard was often used as a defoaming agent in the processing of maple syrup. Nowadays it is mainly vegetable oil that is used. If you’re not sure, check for the Kosher label (sometimes listed as Pareve) or contact the manufacturer to confirm.
Maple syrup is graded according to colour (light to dark amber), translucency (percentage of light that passes through the product) and taste (potency of maple flavour). The Canadian and American system use different terminology in classifying these grades. See grading system.
Maple syrup is a vegan alternative to honey and pairs well with walnuts, pumpkin, cranberries and of course pancakes! Genuine maple syrup can be expensive but it is worth the cost compared to the artificial maple ‘products’ on the market.
I remember as a kid going on a field trip to the sugar bush! We had nature’s version of taffy, using two of Eastern Canada’s ubiquitous ingredients; snow and maple trees. Freshly boiled maple syrup was poured onto clean snow and the clash of temperatures created a sweet and gooey maple treat.