Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup. Maple syrup was first collected and used by the indigenous peoples of North America. The practice was adopted by European settlers, who gradually refined production methods. Technological improvements in the 1970s further refined syrup processing. The Canadian province of Quebec is by far the largest producer, responsible for about three-quarters of the world's output; Canadian exports of maple syrup exceed C$145 million (approximately US$141 million) per year. Vermont is the largest producer in the United States, generating about 5.5 percent of the global supply. Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, United States, or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency. Sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup. In Canada, syrups must be at least 66 percent sugar and be made exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup. In the United States, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labelled as "maple".[1] Maple syrup is often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or oatmeal and porridge. It is also used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetener or flavouring agent. Culinary experts have praised its unique flavour, although the chemistry responsible is not fully understood.[ Three species of maple trees are predominantly used to produce maple syrup: the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the black maple (A. nigrum), and the red maple (A. rubrum),[3] because of the high sugar content (roughly two to five percent) in the sap of these species.[4] The black maple is included as a subspecies or variety in a more broadly viewed concept of A. saccharum, the sugar maple, by some botanists.[5] Of these, the red maple has a shorter season because it buds earlier than sugar and black maples, which alters the flavour of the sap.[6] A few other (but not all) species of maple (Acer) are also sometimes used as sources of sap for producing maple syrup, including the box elder or Manitoba maple (Acer negundo),[7] the silver maple (A. sacharinum),[8] and the bigleaf maple (A. macrophyllum).[9] Similar syrups may also be produced from birch or palm trees, among other sources.[10][11] "Sugar-Making Among the Indians in the North"Indigenous peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first groups known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar. According to aboriginal oral traditions, as well as archaeological evidence, maple tree sap was being processed into syrup long before Europeans arrived in the region.[12][13] There are no authenticated accounts of how maple syrup production and consumption began,[14] but various legends exist; one of the most popular involves maple sap being used in place of water to cook venison served to a chief.[13] Other stories credit the development of maple syrup production to Nanabozho, Glooskap, or the squirrel. Aboriginal tribes developed rituals around sugar-making, celebrating the Sugar Moon (the first full moon of spring) with a Maple Dance.[15] Many aboriginal dishes replaced the salt traditional in European cuisine with maple sugar or syrup.[13] The Algonquians recognized maple sap as a source of energy and nutrition. At the beginning of the spring thaw, they used stone tools to make V-shaped incisions in tree trunks; they then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into buckets, which were often made from birch bark.[14] The maple sap was concentrated either by dropping hot cooking stones into the buckets[16] or by leaving them exposed to the cold temperatures overnight and disposing of the layer of ice that formed on top. While there was widespread Agriculture in Mesoamerica and the Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States, the production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in the Northeast that is not a European colonial import.[14] Europeans In the early stages of European colonization in northeastern North America, indigenous peoples showed the arriving colonists how to tap the trunks of certain types of maples during the spring thaw to harvest the sap.[17] André Thevet, the "Royal Cosmographer of France", wrote about Jacques Cartier drinking maple sap during his Canadian voyages.[18] By 1680, European settlers and fur traders were involved in harvesting maple products.[19] However, rather than making incisions in the bark as the indigenous inhabits did, the Europeans used the method of drilling tapholes in the trunks with augers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, processed maple sap was used primarily as a source of concentrated sugar, in both liquid and crystallized-solid form, as cane sugar had to be imported from the West Indies.[14][15] Maple sugaring parties typically began to operate at the start of the spring thaw in regions of woodland with sufficiently large numbers of maples.[17] Syrup makers first bored holes in the trunks, usually more than one hole per large tree; they then inserted wooden spouts into the holes and hung a wooden bucket from the protruding end of each spout to collect the sap. The buckets were commonly made by cutting cylindrical segments from a large tree trunk and then hollowing out each segment's core from one end of the cylinder, creating a seamless, watertight container.[14] Sap filled the buckets, and was then either transferred to larger holding vessels (barrels, large pots, or hollowed-out wooden logs), often mounted on sledges or wagons pulled by draft animals, or carried in buckets or other convenient containers.[20] The sap-collection buckets were returned to the spouts mounted on the trees, and the process was repeated for as long as the flow of sap remained "sweet". The specific weather conditions of the thaw period were, and still are, critical in determining the length of the sugaring season.[21] As the weather continues to warm, a maple tree's normal early spring biological process eventually alters the taste of the sap, making it unpalatable, perhaps due to an increase in amino acids.[8] The boiling process was very time-consuming. The harvested sap was transported back to the party's base camp, where it was then poured into large vessels (usually made from metal) and boiled to achieve the desired consistency.[14] The sap was usually transported using large barrels pulled by horses or oxen to a central collection point, where it was processed either over a fire built out in the open or inside a shelter built for that purpose (the "sugar shack").[14][22] Modern: Maple Sugaring Today Around the time of the American Civil War, syrup makers started using large, flat sheet metal pans as they were more efficient for boiling than heavy, rounded iron kettles, because of a greater surface area for evaporation.[22] Around this time, cane sugar replaced maple sugar as the dominant sweetener in the US; as a result, producers focused marketing efforts on maple syrup. The first evaporator, used to heat and concentrate sap, was patented in 1858. In 1872, an evaporator was developed that featured two pans and a metal arch or firebox, which greatly decreased boiling time.[14] Around 1900, producers bent the tin that formed the bottom of a pan into a series of flues, which increased the heated surface area of the pan and again decreased boiling time. Some producers also added a finishing pan, a separate batch evaporator, as a final stage in the evaporation process.[22] Two taps in a maple tree, using plastic tubing for sap collectionBuckets began to be replaced with plastic bags, which allowed people to see at a distance how much sap had been collected. Syrup producers also began using tractors to haul vats of sap from the trees being tapped (the sugarbush) to the evaporator. Some producers adopted motor-powered tappers and metal tubing systems to convey sap from the tree to a central collection container, but these techniques were not widely used.[14] Heating methods also diversified: modern producers use wood, oil, natural gas, propane, or steam to evaporate sap.[22] Modern filtration methods were perfected to prevent contamination of the syrup.[23] A large number of technological changes took place during the 1970s. Plastic tubing systems that had been experimental since the early part of the century were perfected, and the sap came directly from the tree to the evaporator house.[24] Vacuum pumps were added to the tubing systems, and preheaters were developed to recycle heat lost in the steam. Producers developed reverse-osmosis machines to take a portion of water out of the sap before it was boiled, increasing processing efficiency.[14] Improvements in tubing and vacuum pumps, new filtering techniques, "supercharged" preheaters, and better storage containers have since been developed. Research continues on pest control and improved woodlot management.[14] In 2009, researchers at the University of Vermont unveiled a new type of tap that prevents backflow of sap into the tree, reducing bacterial contamination and preventing the tree from attempting to heal the bore hole.[25] Production methods have been streamlined since colonial days, yet remain basically unchanged. Sap must first be collected and boiled down to obtain pure syrup without chemical agents or preservatives. Maple syrup is made by boiling between 20 and 50 litres (5.3 and 13 US gal) of sap (depending on its concentration) over an open fire until 1 litre (0.26 US gal) of syrup is obtained, usually at a temperature 4.1 °C (7.4 °F) over the boiling point of water.[22][26] Syrup can be boiled entirely over one heat source or can be drawn off into smaller batches and boiled at a more controlled temperature.[27] Boiling the syrup is a tightly controlled process, which ensures appropriate sugar content. Syrup boiled too long will eventually crystallize, whereas under-boiled syrup will be watery, and will quickly spoil. The finished syrup has a density of 66° on the Brix scale (a hydrometric scale used to measure sugar solutions).[28] The syrup is then filtered to remove sugar sand, crystals made up largely of sugar and calcium malate.[29] These crystals are not toxic, but create a "gritty" texture in the syrup if not filtered out.[30] The filtered syrup is graded and packaged while still hot, usually at a temperature of 82 °C (180 °F) or greater. The containers are turned over after being sealed to sterilize the cap with the hot syrup. Packages can be made of metal, glass, or coated plastic, depending on volume and target market.[31] The syrup can also be heated longer and further processed to create a variety of other maple products, including maple sugar, maple butter or cream, and maple candy or taffy.[32] Maple syrup Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz) Energy 1,093 kJ (261 kcal) Carbohydrates 67.09 g - Sugars 59.53 g - Dietary fiber 0 g Fat 0.20 g Protein 0 g Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.006 mg (1%) Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.01 mg (1%) Niacin (vit. B3) 0.03 mg (0%) Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.036 mg (1%) Vitamin B6 0.002 mg (0%) Calcium 67.00 mg (7%) Iron 1.20 mg (9%) Magnesium 14.00 mg (4%) Manganese 3.298 mg (157%) Phosphorus 2.0 mg (0%) Potassium 204.0 mg (4%) Zinc 4.16 mg (44%) Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. Source: USDA Nutrient Database The basic ingredient in maple syrup is the sap from the xylem of sugar maple or various other species of maple trees. It consists primarily of sucrose and water, with small amounts of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose from the invert sugar created in the boiling process.[58] Organic acids, the most notable one being malic acid, make the syrup slightly acidic. Maple syrup has a relatively low mineral content, consisting largely of potassium and calcium, but also contains nutritionally significant amounts of zinc and manganese. Maple syrup also contains trace amounts of amino acids, which may contribute to the "buddy" flavour of syrup produced late in the season, as the amino acid content of sap increases at this time.[59] Additionally, maple syrup contains a wide variety of volatile organic compounds, including vanillin, hydroxybutanone, and propionaldehyde. It is not yet known exactly what compounds are responsible for maple syrup's distinctive flavour,[29] however its primary flavour contributing compounds are maple furanone, strawberry furanone, and maltol.[60] Maple syrup is similar to sugar with respect to calorie content, but is a source of manganese, with 13 grams containing about 0.44 milligrams, or 22 percent of the US Food and Drug Administration Daily Value (DV%) of 2 milligrams.[61] It is also a source of zinc with 13 grams containing 0.55 milligrams or 3.7 percent of the DV% of 15 milligrams.[61][62] Compared to honey, maple syrup has 15 times more calcium and 1/10 as much sodium.[38] Scientists have found that maple syrup's natural phenols – potentially beneficial antioxidant compounds – inhibit two carbohydrate-hydrolyzing enzymes that are relevant to type 2 diabetes. In the study, 34 new compounds were discovered in pure maple syrup, five of which have never before been seen in nature. Among the five new compounds is quebecol, a phenolic compound created when the maple sap is boiled to create syrup.[63] Birch syrup is a sweetener made from the sap of birch trees, and used in much the same way as maple syrup. It is used for pancake or waffle syrup, to make candies, as an ingredient in sauces, glazes, and dressings, and as a flavoring in ice cream, beer, wine, and soft drinks. It is condensed from the sap, which has about 0.5-2% percent sugar content, depending on the species of birch, location, weather, and season. The finished syrup is approximately 67% sugar. Birch sap sugar is about 42–54% fructose and 45% glucose, with a small amount of sucrose and trace amounts of galactose. The flavor of birch syrup is distinctive—rich and caramel-like, with a hint of spiciness. Making birch syrup is more difficult than making maple syrup, requiring about 100-120 liters of sap to produce one liter of syrup (more than twice that needed for maple syrup). The tapping window for birch is generally shorter than for maple, primarily because birches live in more northerly climates. The trees are tapped and their sap collected in the spring (generally mid- to late April, about two to three weeks before the leaves appear on the trees). The common belief is that while birches have a lower trunk and root pressure than maples, pipeline or tubing method of sap collection used in large maple sugaring operations is not as useful in birch sap collection. However in the spring of 2012, Rocky Lake Birchworks, in The Pas, Manitoba, experimented with vacuum systems and pipelines and the collection method was a success. The sap is reduced in the same way as maple sap, using reverse osmosis machines and evaporators in commercial production. While maple sap may be boiled down without the use of reverse osmosis, birch syrup is difficult to produce this way: the sap is more temperature sensitive than is maple sap because fructose burns at a lower temperature than sucrose, the primary sugar in maple sap. This means that boiling birch sap to produce syrup can much more easily result in a scorched taste. Production Most birch syrup is produced in Russia, Alaska and Yukon and Canada from Paper Birch or Alaska Birch sap (Betula papyrifera var. humilis and neoalaskana). These trees are found primarily in interior and south central Alaska. The Kenai birch (Betula papyrifera var. kenaica), which is also used, grows most abundantly on the Kenai Peninsula, but is also found in the south central part of the state and hybridizes with humilis. The southeast Alaska variety is the Western paper birch, (Betula papyrifera var. commutata) and has a lower sugar content. One litre of syrup from these trees requires evaporation of approximately 130–150 litres of sap. Total production of birch syrup in Alaska is approximately 3,800 liters (1,000 U.S. gallons) per year, with smaller quantities made in other U.S. states and Canada (also from Paper Birch), Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Scandinavia (from other species of birch). Because of the higher sap-to-syrup ratio and difficulties in production, birch syrup is more expensive than maple syrup, up to five times the price. Spoonfuls of facts: An average 40-year-old Maple tree will yield about 40 quarts of sap per season. Just enough to make one quart of pure maple syrup. Indians and the Early Maple Sugaring Process Maple sugaring has been an early Spring tradition in Vermont ever since the Eastern Woodland Indians discovered that maple sap cooked over an open fire produces a sweet sugar. An old Iroquois legend describes the accidental discovery of the sugarmaking process. A hunter returned to his dwelling and found an enticing sweetness in the air around the kettle in which his mate was boiling meat. The fluid in the kettle, he learned, was sap and had been collected beneath a broken maple limb. To make their sugar, the Indians would cut a slash in the maple tree and collect the sap as it dripped out. Logs were then hollowed out, and filled with the fresh sap. White-hot field stones were then added to cause the sap to boil. The Indians would process the sap through the syrup stage to end with crystallized sugar, which did not spoil when stored. When the first European settlers arrived, the Indians traded maple sugar with them and eventually taught the settlers the secrets of the maple sugaring process. New Ideas Take the Process Forward The early settlers added their technologies to the process as seen in this antique photograph.The early settlers added their technologies to the process as seen in this antique photograph. It was, reportedly, a French missionary who was the first settler to make maple syrup in 1690. Other Europeans added their own technologies to the process. They bored holes in the maple trunks and inserted wooden or metal spouts. They used wooden buckets to catch the sap, and then carried the sweet water on shoulder yokes to the metal boiling kettles. Early settlers, like the Native Americans, saved their maple as crystallized sugar. Maple sugar became the colonists own sweetener ending their dependence on foreign sugar. Also, it was never tinctured with the sweat of the southern slave as was cane sugar before the civil war. Early in Vermont’s history, each family made their own maple sugar for personal consumption. Later, sugar makers started businesses to produce maple products and sell them to the general public. Technology changed again, and tanks on sleds were used to collect the sap and were drawn by horses or oxen. The sugar house was now their destination where the invention of the evaporator gave more control to the sugarmakers boiling process. The art of making sugar and syrup from the sap of the maple tree (Acer saccharum) was developed by Native Americans of the Northeast. For them it was the all-purpose seasoning, used as we might use salt today. It was also one of their staple foods, a primary source of nourishment in the early spring season, so valuable and portable it was often used as money. Important festivals celebrated the sugar harvest and there was much merriment and feasting when the last elm bark bucket had been emptied and a year's supply of sugar safely made. European settlers were quick to learn about this tasty natural resource, and they brought something very important to trade for the Indian's knowledge - iron kettles. Until the Europeans arrived, there was no fireproof vessels in in Eastern North America. The Indians boiled the syrup by dropping red-hot stones into thick wooden containers full of sap. Iron kettles made the work of sugar boiling much easier (and the product a lot cleaner). They bubbled steadily, every spring, throughout the early centuries of our history, providing the self-sufficient New England farmers with an ample supply of home-grown sweetness. It was much cheaper and easier to get than imported cane sugar. And cane sugar, furthermore, was part of the chain of slavery. Maple sugar, being made by free men, was better suited to the Yankee temperament. Of course, appreciation for maple sugar went way beyond New England. Thomas Jefferson tried several times to establish a "sugar bush" at Monticello, and there were even a few attempts to start a maple industry in Europe. They all failed. The trees grew all right, but they yielded no sweetness. The sugar in maple sap only appears where warm, sunny days and below-freezing nights follow each other for days on end, as they do in Maine's long, slow spring.

Maple Links

American Maple Musuem
The American Maple Museum was founded in 1977 to preserve the history and evolution of the North American maple syrup industry.

Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Association
Dedicated to helping its members meet a commitment to produce the best quality syrup.

Maine Maple Producers Association
At MMPA we are committed to providing our members with a variety of different ways to help produce and market Pure Maine Maple Syrup.

Vermont Maple Open House
The Open House Weekend is a celebration of the maple syrup season and an opportunity for the public to visit one or more “sugarhouses” throughout the state to learn about Vermont’s first agricultural crop of the year.

Tapping Your Trees If you have several maple trees at your disposal, it will help to survey the trees to make sure they're the best fit for your syrup plans. Ideally, you want to only tap trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter at about 54 inches high from the ground. This will allow for gravity to help you collect the sap, while also helping you extract the most sap possible. If a tree is up to 20 inches in diameter, it should only have one tap in its side. Trees between 20 inches and 25 inches can have two spouts, while anything over 25 inches in diameter can have three spouts. In order to tap your tree, you will need to drill into the side of the maple tree about 2 inches deep, depending on how small your taps or spouts might be. Try to find a section of bark that is not damaged in any way and if there are previous tap holes in the tree, try to stay as far away from those as you can. The newer the drill bit the better so as to avoid wood backing up into the sap hole and slowing down the flow of sap to your bucket. Once the hole is drilled into the tree, install the tap by pushing it into the hole. The tap should feel secure in the hole. It can be helpful to tap your trees on slightly warmer days so as to prevent any possible wood warping or splitting near the tap place. Collecting the Sap To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though they will be little drips and won't amount to much at first. Place the lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip. The best time of year to collect maple sap is in the early part of the year - between January and the early weeks of March. This is when the sap is moving more readily through the tree, allowing you to collect the highest volume of sap. After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you're satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat or collection bucket to take inside to start making syrup. You do not want to store your sap, however, as it can spoil. Replace the collection bucket and if you have enough sap, it's time to begin the syrup making process. You want to boil the sap until it becomes thicker and thicker as the water boils off. You want to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1 ½ inches from the bottom of the pan. You can add cold sap to hot sap or you can cook two pans of sap at the same time and add one to the other to prevent the bottom from burning. As the sap is boiling, you will want to skim off any foam that might be on the top, removing it and any other particulates that might be on the surface. Using a candy thermometer, you will want to boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above your area's boiling temperature. Usually, the boiling temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but different altitudes can have different temperatures. Once you've reached this level, you can choose to filter your maple syrup to remove any other waste that might have gotten into the sap or into the buckets as you collected the sap. Or you can let the syrup completely cool as the sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottle, allowing you to pour off the 'good' syrup into a fresh container. Pour the remaining syrup into the glass bottle. Let the bottle cool and you're ready to serve fresh made maple syrup. If you're planning on canning your syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.