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… Maple Syrup
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© Antigo Farmers' Market, Inc.
Antigo, Wisconsin
 
 
All about Maple Syrup
For many people who live in or around Antigo, tapping maple sap is a yearly ritual, which families have done for many generations.
Maple syrup is usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple trees. Of all the different maple tree varieties, they have the highest sugar content in their sap.
In cold climates such as ours, maple trees store starch in their stems and roots before winter. In the spring, when day temperatures rise above 40 degrees, but night temperatures still dip below freezing, the starch is converted into sugar and rises in the sap. Once night time temperatures consistently stay above freezing, sap collection ceases, as the sap takes on undesirable characteristics for the production of syrup.

 

History
Maple syrup was first collected and used by Native Americans and was later adopted by European settlers. Various legends exist to explain the initial discovery. One is that the chief of a tribe threw a tomahawk at a tree, sap ran out and his wife boiled venison in the liquid. Another version holds that Native Americans stumbled on sap running from a broken maple branch.
In the early stages of European colonization in Northeastern North America, native peoples showed the colonists how to tap maple trees. Production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in North America that is not a European colonial import.
 
Collecting and processing the sap
Traditionally sap is collected from trees of at least 12 inches in diameter by drilling a hole in the trunk and fitting it with a spout from which a bucket or bag can be hung to collect the sap. The sap is the pooled into larger containers and transported to a place (the sugar house), where it is boiled down to syrup.
It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup and a lot of time and patience in the process. This method is still widely used by many people who want to collect just enough sap for their own use.
This quaint method is still depicted in most illustration relating to maple syrup.One of our AFM board members, Erica Berg, recalls going out to her grandparents place as a child to help with the process.
Read her story.
Nowadays, commercial syrup producers have developed methods which greatly speed up the process. Instead of collecting the sap with buckets, the spouts are connected to a large web of plastic tubing that route the precious liquid into large tanks.
Prior to evaporating, a significant amount of water is removed by reverse osmosis. The resulting concentrate is then processed further in a large evaporator.

Earlier this spring, I visited Adamski’s Sugar Bush, a family operated business. I was impressed by the sophisticated equipment and methods used. Their plant is a far cry from the traditional set-up and resembles a high tech laboratory. The Adamski’s have been vendors at the Farmers’ Market from the very beginning and we are looking forward to their large variety of maple syrup products they have to offer this season.

Commercial maple syrup is divided into two major grades: A&B. Grade A is further broken down into Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber. The darker syrup tends to have a more pronounced maple flavor.

Nutrition
Maple Syrup consists primarily of sucrose and water. It also contains low amounts of potassium and calcium and nutritionally significant amounts of zinc and manganese.
Recipes
Maple syrup is a favorite topping for pancakes, waffles and French toast, but it is much more versatile and can be used in savory dishes in the form of glazes on roasted meat and various grilled vegetables.
You may want to try the following suggestions and experiment a bit.


• Grilled Chicken Breasts with Maple Syrup Glaze.
• Mixed Roasted Vegetables
• Yoghurt with Maple Syrup and toasted Hazelnuts.