What can be more Canadian this time of year, than maple syrup?! Growing up abroad, I have to be honest, I never had any maple syrup, and having always had rice, I never had a pancake! Visiting and learning all about maple syrup didn’t come until my adulthood. Yeah, I know, but what can you do, sometimes you embrace a part of Canadian history late in life!
My now husband decided to take me to a maple syrup farm early in our dating years. It was a beautiful Sunday in March, and at that point, I had only experienced some diluted syrup from the grocery store on some sad pancakes. We went for a beautiful sleigh ride and learned all about the history of maple syrup, and of course witnessed a marriage proposal (very Canadian!). The experience was such a lovely break from city life, that I declared we had to do it every year. We did, but then missed the experience when we lived in B.C. Now, we take our child every year for a day of hiking, pancakes, and education.
Let’s go way back though… maple syrup is produced from the clear liquid out of a sugar maple tree, found only around the great lakes in the U.S, and Canada. A sap producer needs to be older than 40 years old, the sugar maple tree creates a high-energy sugar inside the leaves, which mixes with the water absorbed by the tree’s roots to form a sap which flows through the tree. These sugars mature during the winter, and in early spring, as the days become warmer, the sap begins to flow.
The Natives were the first to produce maple sugar to store for long winters, as maple sugar is the most natural, nutrient dense of all sugars, and helped the Natives during our harsh Canadian winters. When European settlers learned about the tapping of the trees, they modified the process to produce syrup, by using massive pots.
The process of boiling the water took days over open fires, and would have to be monitored overnight.
Now, there are maple farms which are open to the public this time of year, serving pancakes with maple syrup. In Quebec, the experience is more than pancakes, it is several courses and costs a small fortune. In Ontario, there are provincial parks that offer education and history lessons along with a simple breakfast of pancakes and sausages. We always choose the educational side of things, because understanding and appreciating the history of this process makes us appreciate the sweet golden syrup that much more. It is a much loved pilgrimage in our family, and I highly recommend doing it at least once in your lifetime.
Have you been this year? or have you experienced this?