Maple syrup is one of the first signs of spring. Warm, sunny days (about 5 C) and frosty nights (-5 C) are ideal for sap flow. The season usually lasts four to six weeks, but sap flow is heaviest for 10 to 20 days. The harvest season ends with the arrival of warm spring nights and bud development in the trees.
Ontario is the fourth largest maple syrup producer in the world after Quebec, Vermont, and New York State. Sugar maple and black maple are used in syrup production in this province.
In Northern Ontario, there are many places to enjoy traditions associated with this most Canadian of food products. A trip to the cabane à sucre celebrates French-Canadian culture and cuisine.
About 15 percent of the entire province’s maple syrup production takes place in the Algoma area. There are numerous maple syrup producers on St. Joseph Island and many welcome visitors to tour operations that range from traditional to high tech. The island is home to two world champions producers and the province’s largest producer, Gilbertson Enterprises.
Aboriginals were the first to discover “sinzibuckwud,” the Algonquin word for maple syrup, which means literally “drawn from wood.” They quickly recognized the sap as a source of energy and nutrition and made it into a crude type of sugar. It was drunk as a sweet drink or used in cooking.
The natives showed French settlers how to tap the trunk of a tree at the outset of spring, harvest the sap and boil it to evaporate some of the water. Settlers and fur traders introduced wooden buckets to the process, as well as iron and copper kettles. Later they learned to bore holes in the trees and hang their buckets on homemade spouts.
Even if production methods have been streamlined and modernized, they remain basically the same. The sap must be collected and distilled carefully to produce a natural, totally pure syrup without any chemical agents or preservatives. The sugar content of sap averages 2.5 percent while the sugar content of syrup averages 66.5 percent.
Maple syrup is as an excellent source of manganese and a good source of zinc. It has fewer calories and has a higher concentration of minerals than honey.
Enjoy a taste of spring with these recipes courtesy of The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers.
2 lb (1 kg) chicken pieces
⅓ cup (75 ml) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (50 ml) vegetable oil
½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup
2 tbsp (30 ml) cider vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) sherry
2 tbsp (30 ml) soya sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp (2 ml) pepper
¼ tsp (1 ml) paprika
Coat chicken pieces well with flour. In large nonstick fry pan, add vegetable oil. Cook for five minutes, browning well, turn often. Arrange in 9 inch x 12 inch baking dish. In small bowl, mix together maple syrup, vinegar, sherry, soya sauce, ginger, garlic, pepper and paprika. Pour over chicken evenly. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to one hour, turning once during baking. Cover with foil, if browning too quickly. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
Maple Bread Pudding
¾ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
3 slices bread without the crusts
2 cups milk
1 tbsp butter
¼ tsp salt
½ cup nutmeat or raisins
¼ tsp vanilla
Pour maple syrup into the top of the double boiler. Butter each slice of bread and cube them.
Add to syrup then add nuts or raisins and juice. Beat together eggs, milk, salt and vanilla and pour over the bread mixture. Do not stir. Set over gently boiling water. Cook one hour. This will make its own sauce. Spoon sauce over each serving. Serves 4 –6
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil (olive oil is too strong)
Mix together in a jar by hand or for a creamier dressing, use a Braun hand blender.
This dressing is particularly good on tossed green salad (mesclin) with sliced strawberries and browned slivered almonds.