Maple Syrup Facts

Sap dripping from the sugar maple is one of the surest signs of early spring in New York State. Trees may be tapped as early as the end of January, but the main sap flow occurs in March. This sweet nectar of spring is boiled over raging fires until it is concentrated into a golden syrup.  As soon as the buds begin to swell in April, the sap becomes off-flavored or “buddy” and collecting is discontinued. If care is taken, no permanent damage is done to the tree. While it may yield sap for 100 years or more, a tree is usually not mature enough for permanent tapping until it reaches 45 years old.

USES FOR MAPLE SYRUP, MAPLE CREAM, AND GRANULATED SUGAR

We of course use maple syrup on pancakes, waffles, and French toast.  However, we also use it to sweeten apple sauce, and in milkshakes, tea, coffee, hot toddies, or on fresh fruit (especially grapefruit).  In cooking, we use maple syrup to add flavor to baked beans, as a glaze squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and over ice cream, hot cereal, corn fritters, baked apples, and custards.  We see few limits to maple’s versatility.  See our favorite recipes for more ideas.

Maple cream makes an excellent spread on breads, rolls, muffins, waffles, French toast, breakfast toast (try raisin toast), and upside-down cakes.  Combine Maple Cream with nuts, coconut, or fruits or use as a filling in cream puffs, eclairs, or crepes.  Mix maple cream with butter (6 tablespoons per cup) and use as a delicious frosting.

Granulated maple sugar is a great topping on coffee cake, cold cereals, oatmeal, grapefruit, French toast, crumb cake, or anywhere you normally use white or brown sugar.  Try it as part of a glaze on baked ham or roasted corned beef.  It is also great as a sweetener in hot tea, coffee or hot toddies as well.

NUTRITION INFORMATION

Maple syrup has about the 50 cal./tbsp., roughly the same as white cane sugar.  However, maple syrup but also contains significant amounts of potassium (35 mg./tbsp.), calcium (21 mg./tbsp.), small amounts of iron and phosphorus, and trace amounts of B-vitamins.  Maple syrup’s sodium content is a low 2 mg./tbsp.
STORAGE OF MAPLE PRODUCTS

Unopened containers of maple syrup should be stored in a cool, dry place.  Once opened, maple syrup should be refrigerated.  If, after extended storage, mold should form on the surface of the syrup, the original quality can be restored.  Remove the mold, heat the syrup to boiling, skim the surface, rinse the container and refill the container with the hot syrup.

You should know that maple syrup producers receive no government subsidies or price supports like many agricultural producers.  We support ourselves… but prices are volatile.  Prices rise and fall with crop sizes and market conditions.  If you like maple syrup, be a smart shopper.  Buy extra when prices are low so that you can buy less when prices are high.  Real maple syrup has a very long shelf life.

WHAT IS ORGANIC?

Many of our customers ask whether our products are organic.  We produce products that we feel are organic and are certified as such by NOFA-NY an organic certification organization.  We are thus certified as organic according to the USDA as well.  There is always some discussion as to whether even certified organic products are truly organic for some folks.  We’ll explain what we do at Cedarvale Maple Syrup Co., and you folks can decide for yourselves.

To us “organic” means that our maple syrup is, as near as possible, only the boiled maple sap as it comes from the tree (and nothing else).  This means that we sell confections made only from pure maple syrup as well.

Some maple producers use paraformaldehyde pellets in their tapholes to boost production. The pill is supposed to evaporate in the cooking process and not appear in the syrup.  We’re not sure if this is the case, but we have not used these pellets in many years.  Of late these pellets are banned in the USA and Canada, although there are recent reports that some large producers are still using pellets they produce themselves.

It is common practice to use some type of fat in small amounts in the boiling process to reduce foaming and make the cooking more even. We use small amounts (1/4 lb. per year on 700 gallons of syrup) of pure butter for this purpose but some other producers do use artificial or synthetic defoamers. Generally this fat is removed in the filtering process as animal fat and water based syrup don’t mix; however, we use a filter press to ensure complete filtering.

Reverse Osmosis: We do use reverse osmosis.  While perfectly healthy, this process removes water from sap by ultrafiltration, using a membrane.  The result is a concentrated sap that is then fed into the traditional evaporator.  This filtering process uses no heat, and heat changes the character of the sugars and makes for a  maple flavor.  Producers who use reverse osmosis finish their syrup over heat, and in our case that is a wood fire. We can not detect any noticable difference in flavor between syrup produced with reverse osmosis pre-concentration and syrup produced without it.  The result does, however, produce less pollution by reducing the amount of wood we burn.  We feel that this cleaner process is therefore, a better method of production than the traditional process.  Recently, some large producers have used Reverse Osmosis to concentrate the sap to 12% sugar or higher to reduce the use of fuel further.  The downside of this is that the syrup cooks for less time and may develop less maple flavor.  We concentrate only to 8% so that the concentrate spends longer  in the boiling evaporator thus, we feel, getting more maple flavor.

MAPLE WEATHER

Maple syrup may be one of the most unique products you can give as a gift.  This sweet nectar of spring is produced no where else on Earth except northeastern North America.  It is the annoyingly prolonged start of spring in the Northeast which makes the Maple harvest possible. Many parts of the world see spring come quickly, with temperatures rising steadily as the season arrives.  In the Maple belt, March and April bring a series of warm and cold stretches before the temperatures finally rise above freezing permanently.  It is this long stretch between seasons that provide enough cold nights coupled with warm days to yield lots of sap.

During Napolean’s time, Maple sugar production was tried in Europe in order to counter the British blockade of ships carrying sugar from the tropics.  The results were disappointing as Spring arrived too quickly, putting an end to the freezing nights necessary for sap flow. Interestingly, European maple trees also give sap that is less sweet than our own Acer Saccharum, thus making profitable sugar making even more difficult.

Maples are being grown experimentally with syrup production in mind in one other country outside North America today: New Zealand.  Tell us if you know anything more about this project!