A recent article asks if maple syrup is the new sugar? A timely question with the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival seeping up on our horizon. The instigators of this festival go by the charming name of the Sapsuckers, and for a couple of years now, they’ve been promoting what is news to most of us: that even out here in the west, our local bigleaf maple trees (Acer macrophyllum, aka Oregon maple) can be tapped and the sap boiled down to make maple syrup.
The reason this isn’t more well known, or more frequently done, is that the more commonly known and aptly named sugar maple (Acer saccharum) – growing in Eastern Canada – has a higher sugar content. So although both need to be boiled down to acceptable levels of sweetness, the Eastern variety will take less sap and therefore less cooking time to reduce to a syrup.
Before you rush out to tap all your trees to see if there’s more sweet gold in them thar trees, the research has already been done: the only other tree you can tap for syrup is the birch, and its syrup has a distinctive flavour that not all will enjoy. Like the bigleaf maple, birch sap is lower in sugar than sugar maple sap, so will take much longer to boil down. But if you want to go for it, here’s how it’s done:
And if you’re looking for syrup recipes, here’s a good puddle of them. When I was in Nova Scotia a year or two ago I picked up a couple of interesting alternatives to syrup: maple sugar (sinzibukwud) and maple butter, both of which are produced by boiling past the syrup point.