Maple syrup

Maple syrup is a sweet condiment made from the sap of maple trees. It is most often eaten with pancakes or waffles, but can also be used as an ingredient in baking or in preparing desserts.

Production

Real maple syrup comes from Canada or northern United States, especially New England (states in the northeast corner of the US). Most maple trees can be used as a source of sap, but the sugar maple and black maple are the most favored, with professionals preferring the black over the sugar. A maple syrup production farm is called a sugarbush.

The province of Quebec in Canada is by far the world's largest producer of maple syrup, producing 15,600,000 litres in 2001 - about four times as much as all U.S. production combined.

In Quebec, the process has become part of the culture, and city people often go to cabanes à sucre in early spring, where lavish meals are served with maple syrup accompaniments. Tire sur la neige is a seasonal treat of thick hot syrup poured onto fresh snow then eaten off sticks as it quickly cools. Owing to its economic importance, the maple tree and its leaves are symbols of Canada and are depicted on its flag.

As for American production, in 2001, Vermont produced 1,040,000 litres of real maple syrup, about a quarter of the U.S. production. Maine and New York state, with about 19 percent each, were next in line.

Use

Maple syrup and its artificial imitations are the preferred toppings for pancakes, waffles, and French toast in North America. Production is concentrated in February. To make the syrup, holes are bored into the maple trees and hollow tubes termed spiles are inserted. These drip the sap into buckets or into plastic pipes. The sap then goes into equipment to boil it down until it forms a sweet syrup. The process is slow, because most of the water has to boil out of the sap before it is the right consistency. It takes approximately forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. A very small amount of fat is added during the reduction process.

Maple syrup is sometimes boiled down further to make maple sugar, usually sold in pressed blocks, and translucent candy.

Most syrups on the market today in the United States are imitation maple syrups, usually with no real maple content. They are usually thickened far beyond the viscosity of real maple syrup, as well. Real maple syrup is widely considered superior, although more expensive.

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