Québec Maple Syrup is made of a single ingredient: maple sap.
There are more than 150 maple tree species in the world. But only the sugar maple and red maple give us the sap needed to produce maple syrup. And this precious sap flows when Québec’s frigid winters are followed by the milder temperatures of spring. Our skilled maple producers collect it from the trees, pour it into vats and, through evaporation and complex processes that demand rigour and precision, transform it into maple products.
The Sap Flows
In summertime, maple trees create sugar through the process of photosynthesis. This sugar is what allows the trees to breath through their cells, to grow, and to store starch in their roots.
As winter changes to spring, the alternation of nighttime cold and daytime heat provokes movement of sap in the maple trees. In the freezing darkness, the branches stiffen as the gasses in its fibres contract. The sap also freezes but, as it’s a liquid and not a gas, it expands in the tree fibres. And, through the night, the water that’s been absorbed by the roots rises up the middle of the tree, capturing its sugar reserves as it goes.
When the sun comes up, the air temperature rises with it, thawing the branches. The daytime warmth turns the sap back to liquid, and it’s the turn for the gasses in the tree fibres to expand. This pressure causes the sap to flow through the trunk of the maple tree.
The Sap is Harvested
Traditionally, maple sap was collected in pails hung beneath the taps driven into each of the trees. Those buckets would be picked up by hand and emptied into larger containers on a trailer or sleigh, then hauled to the sugar shack.
Today, in most cases, the pails are gone, replaced by tubes attached to the taps in the trees. The tubes come together at larger collector pipes in a system using gravity or pumping to take the maple sap right from the tree trunks to the sugar shack.
The Sap is Made into Maple Syrup
Arriving directly from the trees, the sap flows into large stainless steel tanks, through a reverse osmosis apparatus (which concentrates sugar content) or right into the evaporator to be boiled down into maple syrup. In the tree, maple sap measures at about 2 degrees Brix. It becomes maple syrup at 66 degrees Brix, that is 66% sugar content. It takes an average 40 litres of maple sap to make one litre of syrup.