We’ve grown to known poutine and bacon as iconic Canadian food items, but I rate the maple syrup as the staple I most readily identifiable with Canada. Maybe one reason is because almost all of the global supply (>80%) is derived from Canada.
Witnessing how maple tree sap is transformed into the classic breakfast supplement was among my highest priorities in an effort to rediscover things that we, as Canadians, tend to ignore because of their ubiquity.
My first experience witnessing maple making was at the Westfield Heritage Village, where they did it the traditional way with pales hanging by each tree and maple sap dripping from the “taps” ever so slightly. It is a labor intensive process, and also explains why maple syrup is an expensive shelf-item in grocery stores, most of the “Pure Maple Syrup” labels are true. It is boiled to the extent that only a very small percentage of the extract is actually left over, it depends on the maple syrup concentrate that needs to be derived.
What was particularly engrossing was how the First Nations produced maple syrup when they discovered in the 1600’s. They would literally cut off the tree trunks, open them up and put hot stones in it to bring the mixture to a boil. The clear syrup would float at the the top which would be removed and stored for use throughout the year.
I enjoy finding out about how things work or how they’re made. This trip was one of those, and I’ll be sure to bring my son over when he’s old enough to understand the nuances behind this great Canadian tradition.