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The History of Maple Syrup

Native Americans were the first to discover how to make maple syrup from sugar maple sap. There are various legends that explain how they learned about sugar maples, including one where the chief of a tribe threw a tomahawk at a tree, sap ran out, and then his wife boiled venison in the liquid. Another version holds that Native Americans stumbled on a broken maple branch and noticed sap running from it. Colonists later learned about sugar maples from Native Americans. From the 17th century onward, dairy farmers would often supplement their income by drilling small holes in the trees during the narrow window of sugaring weather. Then they would hang buckets underneath to collect the sap that would run out. Next, they would boil off the water content in the sap in a dedicated building in the woods known as a “sugar house,” leaving just a sweet liquid behind — maple syrup. Today, maple syrup is often made using technologically advanced methods like special tubing, vacuum systems, oil-fueled furnaces, and reverse osmosis filters. While maple syrup making (sometimes called "sugaring") has seemingly changed quite a bit, the truth is that the basic process for making maple syrup has not changed much at all: essentially, it is done by collecting sap and then reducing it over heat. With the rise of the natural foods movement, maple syrup has become a popular alternative to processed cane sugar, and the industry has actually expanded in recent years. But what about popular “maple syrup” products, such as Log Cabin? These products are not real maple syrup, but rather they are maple-flavored toppings that are usually sweetened with corn syrup. Due to increasing demand and poor sugaring weather in some regions, prices for maple syrup have increased in recent years, yet it remains a sought-after sweetener for pancakes, waffles, and more, particularly in the Northeastern United States and Canada, the regions where it was first created several centuries ago.

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