When I was a teenager, my parents best friends bought a maple syrup farm in Collingwood. Each year we would get a large maple bucket of syrup, which established my love of maple syrup. To this day, I can’t eat a pancake or waffle without it, and enjoying maple syrup generously poured over ice cream is heavenly!
– Beth Parker
Native Peoples were the first to discover ‘sinzibuckwud’, the Algonquin (a Native American tribe) word for maple syrup that means ‘drawn from wood’. They used tomahawks to make V-shaped incisions in maple trees, then inserted reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into birch bark buckets. The sap was drunk as a sweet drink or used in cooking. It was the settlers, however, who perfected the technique for boiling and distilling the sap in copper kettles in order to create what we enjoy as maple syrup. Maple syrup is boiled even further to produce maple cream, sugar and candy.
Today, all maple syrup is graded #1 or #2, and by colour: extra light, light, medium, amber and Ontario amber. Amber is better for baking, with a stronger maple flavour. Extra light and light is perfect on pancakes.
Maples Syrup Facts
- The process doesn’t damage the tree. Only 10% of a tree’s sap is collected each year.
- Warm sunny days (above 4º C) and frosty nights are ideal for sap flow. The maple season may last 4 to 6 weeks, but sap flow is heaviest for 10 to 20 days.
- 30-50 gallons of sap are evaporated to make one gallon of syrup.
- It takes one gallon of syrup to produce eight pounds of candy or sugar.
- If you boil the syrup to 131°-132°C and carefully pour it onto crushed ice or snow, you get traditional maple taffy!
Many small towns and villages across Ontario host annual maple syrup festivals, supported by community groups and maple syrup producers. These festivals are a wonderful tradition of spring in Ontario! Here are just a few that are not too far from Toronto.
Purple Woods Conservation Area – Oshawa
March 12-20, 26-27 & April 2-3
McLean Berry Farm – Buckhorn MapleFest
Siloam Orchards Maple Syrup – Uxbridge
Mid-March– Mid-April (weekends)
Shaws Maple Bush Tours – Between Barrie & Orillia