April 23, 2012

the magical mysterious land of maple

Standing in the silence of a maple forest near Bonsecour Quebec I was expecting to hear the sap flowing, groaning, dripping....nothing; just a soft wind through the tree tops and barely visible shoots. It is strange and magical that so few trees have this characteristic, next in popularity being the birch. A Northern thing I suppose. I was also surprised that Quebec accounts for 75% of world production with almost 25 million liters a year, with the rest of Canada adding another 5% to that figure. That's a lot of fucking syrup man.

Before the winter maple trees will store starch in the roots and trunks which will convert to sugar in the spring. This sap, the stored energy of the maple will start flowing when temperatures rise above 0 degrees Celsius, or when an intense sun heats the bark exciting that half of the tree to flow while the shaded side remains dormant. The buckets we all remember hanging from a tree below a spout burrowed in the trunk have largely been abandoned, replaced by a long system of surreal tubes which are hung around the forest leading to a central shack where the maple water is collected. From there another long journey to a separation bin or a concentrateur of the brut water by osmosis, which is then sent to an evaporateur, which concentrates the syrup, and for some less industrial businesses with send the syrup to a finisseur which heats the syrup on a flat bed, evenly, timely. And Les Sucreries d'Or's organic maple syrup definitely taught me again the important lesson, it takes time, and a lot of it to get there.  Then comes the classification, different everywhere, and in Quebec is divided into two classes No.1 and No.2 and with 5 colour classes in each. The tastiest and most complex I think is the extra claire No.1, also the rarest and least affected by bacteria.

According to the Federation des producteurs acericoles du Quebec 20% of erablieres are organic on the French site, translated into English it reads that only 12% are organic...don't know how that got mistranslated, or which figure is the right one, but one thing is for certain is that we'll be enjoying our organic maple syrup at Renard artisan bistro for some time to come, maybe even in our homemade bread.