The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians, who used it both as a food and as a medicine. They would make incisions into trees with their tomohawks and use birch barks to collect the sap. The sap would be condensed into syrup by evaporating the excess water using one of two methods: plunging hot stones into the sap or the nightly freezing of the sap, following by the morning removal of the frozen water layer.
When the settlers came to North America, they were fascinated by this traditional process and in awe of the delicious, natural sweetener it produced. They developed other methods to reduce the syrup, using iron drill bits to tap the trees and then boiling the sap in the metal kettles in which it was collected.
Maple syrup was the main sweetener used by the colonists since sugar from the West Indies was highly taxed and very expensive. As sugar became cheaper to produce, it began to replace maple syrup as a relied upon sweetener. In fact, maple syrup production is approximately one-fifth of what it was in the beginning of the 20th century.
Maple syrup-producing trees are only found in select regions of North America. Producers of maple syrup include the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, as well as the states of Vermont and New York in the U.S.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Maple syrup, used in place of table sugar as a sweetener, gives tea and coffee a unique taste.
Pour some maple syrup on oatmeal topped with walnuts and raisins.
Add maple syrup and cinnamon to puréed cooked sweet potatoes.
Combine maple syrup with orange juice and tamari and use as a marinade for baked tofu or tempeh.
Spread peanut butter on a piece of whole wheat toast, top with sliced bananas and then drizzle maple syrup on top for a sweet, gooey treat.