Spicelight: Maple Sugar

 

Maple sugar is among the oldest agricultural products in North America. We owe the existence of this saccharine sap to the indigenous peoples who first created it. Nearly everywhere you find maple trees growing in the new world, you will find a history and culture of maple syrup and sugar. 

Indigenous peoples of North America had no salt in their diet before European contact, but they did use maple sugar to season vegetables, cereals, and fish.

So what is the difference between maple sugar and maple syrup?
…Well, just a few hours really.

Left to right: maple sap, maple syrups, and maple sugar.

 

Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup. Once the water content has left the sap the sugar begins to form crystals. It hardens and then gets sifted into a fine powder.

The season is short and starts in early March, when the days are getting warm but the nights are still below freezing. Sugar content is highest at this time, but it still takes roughly forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

In the earliest days of production, maple sap was collected in watertight birch bark containers. Stones were heated over a wood fire and put into the containers to heat the liquid, taking up to a week to form syrup. Metal pots and kettles eventually replaced these woven pots and streamlined the process.

Today, we source our maple sugar from Wisconsin maple trees and have done so for over a decade.

Maple sugar is a fundamental ingredient in our immensely popular Gateway to the North blend. Fantastic on salmon and sweet potatoes, this blend is full of sweet and savory notes.

Maple sugar can be used as a replacement for refined sugar. The flavor is distinctly maple-woody, sweet and clean. Try it in cookies, cakes and pastries. Sprinkle over oatmeal, pancakes or toast. Use it to glaze fish, pork chops, or ribs.

 

Special thanks to River Trail Nature Center for the photo opportunity.

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