Maple Syrup: Canada's Sweetest Tradition
Did you know that Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup?
To learn more about this longstanding tradition, we went for a visit to the Maple Sugar Shack at McLachlan Farm to enjoy a pancake breakfast with our favourite sweet – fresh maple syrup.
When settlers first came to Canada, sugar was really expensive and hard to get so it’s a good thing the Aboriginal people introduced them to maple syrup! Traditionally, the Aboriginal people boiled their syrup in hollowed out logs over stones that had been heated by fire. They made the syrup into a sweet drink but today most people use it as an alternative to sugar in cooking or as a topping for pancakes and waffles.
All trees produce sap but sugar maples make some of the sweetest. Like most crops, weather is really important to maple syrup. In order to get the sap out the tree it has to be flowing up and down inside the trunk. This happens when it’s warm during the day (sap flows up) and then cold at night (sap flows down). This means that February to April is the perfect time for maple syrup because it’s cold at night and warmer during the day.
Traditionally, the sap was collected in metal or wooden buckets hung on the tree underneath a spout. Now farms usually hook up the spouts to plastic tubing so the sap can flow without having to empty and change buckets. Once the sap is collected, it’s filtered and boiled. The longer it’s boiled, the thicker it gets so you need to have patience for yummy maple syrup. An average tree yields 35 to 50 litres of sap, which produces only 1.5 litres of maple syrup!
The McLachlan family has owned the small syrup lot outside of London Ontario for over 150 years. At McLachlan, aside from the delicious pancake breakfast and maple products for sale, they also offer horse-drawn wagon rides to tour their farm, a nature walk and play area for kids. You can check out the McLachlan website at http://mclachlansyrup.ca/
With the fresh syrup we got at the farm, we decided to make a maple treat – Maple Walnut Muffins. Maple syrup is a great Ontario substitute for sugar that can give your baking and cooking an extra kick of flavour.
Maple Walnut Muffins
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
- ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup light sour cream
- 6 tablespoons maple syrup (darker grades will give a more pronounced maple flavour)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400°. Place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.
- In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Cream butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and brown sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.
- In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and maple syrup.
- Add 1/2 dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture and combine slowly. Pour in 1/3 sour cream mixture. Add remaining dry ingredients in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream mixture. Beat until just blended.
- In a small bowl, stir together walnuts, cinnamon and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.
- Pour batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle top of each muffin with walnut mixture. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Place tins on wire rack to cool about 5 minutes. Remove from tins and serve warm.
Until we grow again!