Sinzibuckwud is the Algonquin word for maple syrup. It translates to “drawn from wood”


When you think of Canada, one of the things you always think about is maple syrup. Hard as it is for us Northeasterners to believe, there are a lot of people in the world who have never had real maple syrup. They’ve only had that Aunt Jemima  “table” syrup (which is made from tables, not maple) or something similar, so they think maple syrup is funny. Which is why when people mock Canada they mention maple syrup in various contexts and laugh uproariously.

Those of us who grew up in the midst of maple-syrup-land know that maple syrup is actually a wondrous, magical gift from nature which deserves respect and reverence.

Nobody knows how long human beings have been consuming maple products, but long before Europeans got here, natives had been tapping sugar maple trees for generations and generations.

They’d poke holes in the trees and stick bits of bark or reeds into the holes and collect the sap into birch-bark buckets. If they didn’t have the wherewithal to boil the sap for days and days to reduce it to syrup, they left the buckets of sap out overnight to freeze and then just popped off the top layer of ice – which was mostly water – leaving the concentrated sugary sap underneath.

Today, Canada makes more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup, producing nearly 30 million litres of syrup a year. Most of this syrup (90%) comes from Quebec with the rest coming from Ontario and New Brunswick. (And a teensy bit from Nova Scotia)

In the US — Vermont, Main and New York State produce the other 20% of the world’s maple syrup.

Maple products are exported to 48 countries – mainly the US, Germany and Japan.

In this part of the world, a visit to the maple sugar bush is pretty much an annual early spring outing for most families. When days warm up, but nights are still freezing, the sap starts to flow – usually during four to six weeks sometime between February and April.

These days, while some trees are still tapped the old fashioned way, many are also vacuum-tapped which can yield twice as much sap as the old gravity way. It takes 10 gallons(40 litres) of sap to make 1 quart (1 litre) of syrup.

It takes approximately 40 liters (10 gal) of sap to boil down 1 litre (1 quart) of syrup. A mature Sugar Maple tree produces about 40 litres of sap during the 4- to 6-week sugaring season under gravity, but can produce 80 or more litres under vacuum.

For the last 30 years or so, maple syrup producers have been using a reverse osmosis system to first remove most of the water from the sap (apparantly more efficient than leaving buckets of sap out overnight to freeze). Then they boil it for a while and end up with syrup. The longer it boils, the darker the grade of syrup.[1]

If it’s boiled down even further you get:

  • First a thicker, darker syrup to make maple taffy by pouring the liquid onto some fresh snow and sticking a stick into it. Yum!

  • Second: Maple cream or maple butter (neither of which, contrary to what some people believe, contain any dairy products)
  • Third: keep boiling and you’ll end up with maple sugar – more yumminess

Maple syrup and other maple products have a number of health benefits. It’s a great sweenter yet is very low in fructose compared to other sweetners like corn syrup or agave syrup. Maple syrup is much lower in calories and carbohydrates than sugar or honey. And, it’s an excellent source of manganese (an essential cofactor in energy production and antioxidant defenses) and zinc (good for all sorts of stuff, including immune system support). For what it’s worth, maple syrup also has more calcium than milk, by volume, and more potassium than bananas, by weight.

Maple syrup is a staple in our house. Whenever we can, we buy it in industrial-sized tins.

We use it not only for pancakes, waffles, yoghurt, grapefruit, baked apples, sweet potatoes and oatmeal, but for baking (on the rare occasions when that happens) and cooking. Tofu fried with a little maple syrup and tamari is the best thing since I don’t know what.

And then there’s maple-walnut ice cream. Enough said, I think.

And remember when Obama (and a million body guards) came to Ottawa and he bought a bunch of those maple cookies from the market?

I used to love those things.

And here’s a little tip. If for some bizarre reason you don’t consume your maple syrup right away and it stands around in your fridge for a long time and mold starts growing on the surface, don’t throw it away. You can skim the mold off. Reheat the syrup to the boiling point and skim whatever ends up on the surface again. Clean out the syrup container really well and pour the hot restored syrup back in.  It will be good as new.

Is there anyone out there who has not ever had real maple syrup?

What’s your favourite thing to do with maple syrup?

[1] Canadian Syrup grades are (from lightest to darkest): Extra Light, Light, Medium, Amber and Canada #2 Amber. I, personally, like the really dark stuff the best.


42 responses to “Sinzibuckwud

  1. I used to chug the fake stuff but when I found out it was full of corn syrup, I quit it cold turkey. I bought real Canadian maple syrup for a time but it grew so expensive down here I quit buying it. I love it though.

  2. Being allergic to mold, I just throw it out to be on the safe side, but that’s interesting nonetheless.

    As for “Those of us who grew up in the midst of maple-syrup-land know that maple syrup is actually a wondrous, magical gift from nature which deserves respect and reverence,” I didn’t develop such an appreciation for what we’ve got until I tried eating pancakes in El Paso with nothing but ‘table syrup’ available. Blech.

    – RG>

  3. Well my favorite thing is watching my DIY kids tap the maple in the yard and freeze off the extra water. But thats because I’m a crazy homeschooler and I love these self initiated projects.

    I always buy cakes of maple sugar to grate as topping for baked goods. I can’t find the dark stuff here in Nova scotia and I really miss having it to bake with. the sugar is almost the same.

    The other thing I love is stewed plums with maple syrup (make a really awesome icecream with this mix too)

    I have a walnut tree in our new yard, we’re planting sugar maples. In 40-50 years you can come help us tap them and we’ll make some maple walnut icecream!

  4. One of my husband’s vendors gave us some really fancy pure maple syrup in a Christmas gift basket a few years ago. I don’t particularly like sweets and don’t eat pancakes or waffles but I found a recipe on the internet for Rachael Ray’s Spicy Maple Walnuts. And they were freaking excellent. Growing up as a poor dumb southern rural child, that may have been the first time I even tasted real maple syrup. It really is good.
    (I had to laugh at your calcium comparison with milk: maple syrup also has more calcium than milk, by volume. So if you drink a whole glass of maple syrup you get more calcium than a glass of milk. Whoa Nelly!)

  5. That’s okay, *some* people don’t follow the rules of the International Maple Syrup Institute, and make their own homemade food product out of local maple syrup, and local organic butter, which *some* people guarantee will taste better than any store-bought “official maple butter” (which apparently doesn’t contain any dairy products, leading me to believe that only a government organization could have named it such…)


  6. When I was a kid visiting a Sugar-Bush, we’d pick chunks of ice out of the metal buckets, and suck the sap right out of them.

    Best damned Popsicle you ever tasted.

    You can’t do that so much anymore, though. Since they went from buckets to plastic tubes.

  7. @Brett
    It’s probably the same government that forces margarine in Quebec to be colored bright flaming yelow.

    They won’t allow margarien to look like butter, because they think people will be confused and not be able to tell the difference between the two.

  8. Dr. Monkey – It’s not cheap, even up here, but it’s not outrageously expensive. The best deals are at the sugar bushes or at the market, but you can often get sales at the grocery store, too. It’s sad that you have to live a mapleless life.

    Grouchy – I know. Don’t you feel sorry for those El Pasoeans?

    Mudmama – Okay! You’re on. I’ll see you some time in February/March of 2052. I may need a bit of help heaving the buckets and cracking the walnuts though.

    Geewits – That’s why I qualified those comparisons with “for what it’s worth”. The maple people are real proud of those facts, but as you say, you have to guzzle a lot of maple syrup. Of course it all adds up – a little calcium here and there. How sad that you had to grow up without maple syrup. Have you bought any since that lovely gift?

    Brett – Ha ha. It’s called maple “butter” because it’s creamy and smooth. News flash – peanut “butter” doesn’t contain any dairy either. Neither does apple “butter”. And when you “butter” someone up you are not actually slathering them in dairy fat. I know The Dairy Board people get miffed when things call themselves “butter” because I guess the official definition is the dairy definition.

    Friar – Egads! Not to mention the horrific hygiene/law suit issues involved with kids touching stuff outdoors and maybe getting sick. Thank goodness they went to plastic tubing! (I do believe there are still some sugar bushes that have the buckets –mainly for tourists.
    Oh and ya, that Quebec margarine rule. They actually lifted that in 2008. The whole margarine/dairy industry is hilarious though. Did you know that margarine was totally banned in Canada until 1948 (except for a brief time during WWI when there was a dairy shortage) and that there was a bootleg market in margarine? The oleo was made by the Newfoundland Butter Company (which produced only margarine) and was made from fish oils and smuggled around the country where it was sold for half the price of butter. After the margarine ban was lifted, most of Canada had to have yellow colour in their margarine. In Ontario it was still illegal to sell butter-coloured margarine until 1995.

  9. Best of the best – on top of a bowl full of Cap’n Crunch and vanilla ice cream. 3000 calories of heaven!
    BTW, I have a dealer. Good stuff. Real pure. And not costly. Let me know.

  10. I make maple syrup candied walnuts like Geewits for holidays but I don’t put spices on them…that sounds good. Our favourite way to eat sweet potatoes involves roasting them with maple syrup and cinnamon – so yummy.

  11. I smear it on my body, lie down and wait for the insects to come get it.

    Maple syrup is so good they don’t bite they just tickle as they walk around lapping up the mapley goodness.

  12. The last time I took the girls to Fulton’s sugar bush, they were making cotton candy using maple sugar. I think that might have been the best thing I ever ate. The girls were in heaven.

    I make butter tarts using maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and put walnuts or pecans in them. They’re so good, they should be illegal.

  13. my mom makes a maple mousse that is so good. I will have to bug her for the recipe.

    at our wedding, we had a fairly high number of overseas guests, our little give-aways were maple sugar candies – yum!

  14. Vanilla ice cream, maple syrup and little blobs of maple butter here and there….

    I remember sugar shacks when I was a kid. Now they’re huge. Last time we went, they didn’t even have real maple syrup on the table, nor was the taffy 100% maple. Never again.

    Plus, lets face it the food is pretty nasty. Eggs cooked in maple syrup, ham cooked in maple syrup, everything dripping with the stuff – ugh.

    The worst is “oreilles de Christ” (Christ ears) fried pig fat. The very thought brings on uncontrollable shudders.

  15. Trashy – Oh boy!! A dealer!! I will get the details in the am. Cap’n Crunch, ice cream and maple syrup?? All you need to finish it (and you) off is a little sugar.

    MM – I’ve never made swet potatoes with cinnamon. Interesting.

    Dave 1949 – I think it might be time for you to start weaning yourself off the meds.

    Alison – Cotton candy out of maple sugar? That’s insane. Even more insane than butter tarts with maple syrup and pecans. Go away with your evil insanity. Go!

    Ken – Okay. We have them every 2 months though. I guess you’re not on the mailing list. Would you like to be?

    Meanie – Maple mousse? Wow. That sounds… Wow…

    Jazz – What sort of maple sugar joints are you going to? I’ve never seen those Christ ears. I don’t ever eat the food at those places anyway. I just go to buy the syrup in gigantic tins. And I think I’ve been a couple of times to see the trees being tapped. Now I might have a new “dealer” according to Trashy, so I won’t have to go to the farms anymore.

  16. @XUP,

    That does not change the fact that “Brett’s Maple Butter”, is better, due to the butter 😉

    I bet the Department of Buttery Named Substances is behind this.

  17. Oh, yer maple syrup is wonderfulness personified, alrighty. But if you want to experience ambrosia from the land that trees forgot, you could do a lot worse than saskatoon syrup.

    And to those who think saskatoons are merely blueberry knockoffs that have become overhyped by delusional prairie dogs , I say, “pshaw” and “fie”.

  18. Friar – At some sugar bushes, they still use buckets for the trees that aren’t uphill of wherever they collect the sap.

    XUP – nope. They have 3L cola bottles down there. Also, the weathermen all freaked out when it got within five degrees of freezing.

    – RG>

  19. I have sent my Mom an email requesting the recipe…, with her mad computer slash typing skillz, we should have a recipe by the end of the week.

  20. It’s a Sunday morning tradition around here to have pancakes or French toast with our own syrup. I consider the pancakes/toast as a syrup delivery system… apparently it’s not acceptable to drink it out of the container.

  21. I feel like getting a little sinful with Alison’s (maple) butter tarts.
    And just how long does it take for maple syrup to go moldy? I’ve has a bottle in my fridge for about 3 years and I just checked – can’t see any mould.

  22. MM – If you don’t get it beforehand, I think they’ll both be at breakfast on Saturday!

    Brett – Ah yes, the DBS. You have to watch out for them. I think they’re in cahoots with the Dairy Board.

    Coyote – Thank you. I just spent half an hour of my life Googling Saskatoon berries. They do look a little like blueberries and currents mixed together. And they’re considered a superfruit and I’ve never even heard of them. I also didn’t know that canines used words like “pshaw” or “fie”.

    Grouchy – Big deal. They still don’t have the maple.

    Meanie – Couldn’t you just phone her? Is that still allowed?

    Susan – Oh ya! I should have linked to your maple adventure blog post. That was so cool and I’d totally forgotten that you have your own trees. I don’t see why you can’t just drink a glass of maple syrup?? I’m not a big fan of pancakes or waffles, so I have to find more ingenious ways to deliver the maple.

    Violetsky – WHAT? How the heck do you keep a bottle of maple syrup for 3 years? That’s blaspheme or something. Maybe people keep their syrup I the cupboard instead of the fridge and it gets moldy?? I’m hoping Alison will come over on Friday and maybe bring some maple butter tarts.

  23. I think the mold is more related to the container and/or whatever was in it before (I had poured mine into a plastic honey container), and how cleanly it was used (i.e. if you used your finger to wipe off the tip).

    Conceivably, there could also be the odd contaminant in the maple syrup from the packaging process.

    – RG>

  24. i could but i am very lazy and if she types in an email i won’t have to write it down on scrap of paper, as i am inclined to do, and lose the scrap of paper, as i am also inclined to do. win win. plus she needs the practise.

  25. I’ll find the recipe and type it out. I haven’t made them in a while. And before you get all incredulous, it’s because the insane baked good of choice around here for the last while has been cinnamon buns.

  26. I am hugely ambivalent about maple syrup and all things maple. My friend Patti LOVES all things maple but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm, one way or the other. As a kid we always bought that gross Auntie J. kind of pancake syrup (blech), so I still think of that — I know, I know, but I can’t help it.

    I think it all stems from my lack of a sweet tooth. *I* have a savory tooth.

  27. Grouchy – OK, well in case you ever buy new syrup and for some reason don’t eat it all quickly enough, now you know how to re-purpose it.

    Meanie – Excellent!

    Alison – See, now everyone is going to want your recipe for insane cinnamon buns too. If you don’t stop mentioning all the good stuff you make you’ll be writing a cookbook before you know it.

    Ellie – Oh my. Poor, poor you. It’s a little like finding an illiterate child who claims to not like reading. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth either, which is what makes maple syrup so great. It’s not too sweet and it has real flavour AND you can add it to savory things to make them more powerful.

    Milan – XUP Jr. loves those things too. They`re pretty expensive in the tourist gift shops though. I think you can get them in bulk at some natural food stores for far less.

  28. Thanks, Xup – I am on the Blogger’s Breakfast List. I thought it twice a year, not every two months … !

    I’ll keep an eye out for July’s invite 😉

    If you’ve ever been to a Quebec sugar bush, they put syrup on EVERYTHING. Absolutely everything. It’s awesome.

  29. My dad used to tap about 30 trees on our property and another 15 or so on our neighbour’s property when we were growing up. (He used to give them a portion of the maple syrup we made.) I have so many good memories of tromping about in the snow to collect sap, then watching my dad boil it up over a big wood fire. My dad learned the process from another neighbour a few doors over who used to boil up sap in an actual cauldron. I always thought that was really cool (and a wee bit scary).

    My dad used to love going into tourist shops in Southern Ontario just to see what kind of crazy price maple syrup was on sale for. Then he’d say to my mom, “see how much money I’m saving us, Gail?” Yes, dear. The funny thing is, my mom’s never been a big fan of maple syrup. All us kids loved it, though.

  30. Ken – Yes! I know. Much as I love the stuff, there has to be a limit.

    Mary Lynn – Good old dad. That must have been cool though to have your own sap trees and your own syrup.

    Linsey – Where does the syrup come from that you buy way out there in the west?

  31. “They’ve only had that Aunt Jemima “table” syrup (which is made from tables, not maple)” — hysterical…

    I think I consume about 50 per cent of the maple syrup produced in Canada.

  32. and she delivers…..I have no idea what a fruit nappie” is….

    Hi Karen,
    Here is the recipe.
    X Mum

    Maple Mousse
    Sprinkle 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (Knox) over
    ¼ cup cold water
    Add to 1 cup hot maple syrup
    Stir and cook until gelatin is dissolved.
    Cool until the consistency of unbeaten egg white.
    Fold in 500 cc heavy cream, whipped
    Put in individual serving dishes. Chill thoroughly.
    6 – 8 servings.
    (I often halve the recipe, and have served 5 or 6 people – the mixture is quite rich, but delicious; depends on the size of your fruit nappies!)

  33. Nat – Then I eat the other 50%. I wonder where the other people are getting their maple syrup from?

    Meanie – A fruit nappy is a dessert dish. Also, I love that you included your mom’s salutation and little X kissy for you!

    Linda – Yes! Are you saying you’ve only had it once on pancakes or that you eat it all the time but just on pancakes?