10 Sticky Facts About Maple Syrup

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Savor every drop of this topping—assuming you’re using the real stuff, that is—because it sure isn't easy to make. Here are 10 tasty tidbits everyone should memorize before their next pancake supper.

1. It Takes Roughly 40 Gallons of Sap to Make 1 Gallon of Maple Syrup.

What’s with the skewered conversion rate? Fresh sap has a very low sugar content, yet high-quality maple syrup is composed, at minimum, of 66 percent sugar. Also, consider this: Most trees only yield 5 to 15 gallons of sap per season. Now that’s one labor-intensive liquid!

2. What’s Fake Maple Syrup Made With? You Might Not Wanna Know.  

Brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth use such ingredients as high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum, and caramel coloring to create an inexpensive substance which only somewhat resembles the genuine article. Thus, their bottles are usually labeled “original,” “breakfast,” or “pancake” syrup. 

3. There’s an International Maple Syrup Institute.

Founded in 1975, the organization works “to promote and protect pure maple syrup and other maple syrup products.” Among other things, the IMSI is working to develop universal standards for syrup quality and consistency. Naturally, their meetings often include memorable breakfast buffets and, sometimes, this guy: 

4. It Comes in Several Color-Based Grades.

Canada’s system includes four hue-related categories: Extra Light (AA), Light (A), Medium (B), #2 Amber (C), and #3 Dark (D). Meanwhile, in the U.S., Grade A syrup is lighter in color while the Grade B variety is considerably darker and used largely for baking. However, Vermont has its own rubric which breaks down into the following brackets: “Golden Color with Delicate Taste,” “Amber Color with Rich Taste,” “Dark with Robust Taste,” and “Very Dark with Strong Taste.”

5. Today, About 80 percent of the World’s Supply Comes From Canada.

American producers once dominated this industry, but the Great White North’s since taken control: Quebec alone generates two-thirds of the globe’s syrup.

6. In Korea, Sap is Usually Preferred to Syrup.

The gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones,” is a Korean maple that’s been tapped by southern villagers since at least the ninth century. Locals consume its sap in huge quantities; drinking over 5 gallons in one sitting is a common practice.

7. Sap-Gathering Pumps Have Replaced Traditional Taps and Buckets Throughout North America.

“A vast number of maple operations are using tubing and vacuum sap collection,” says the Proctor Maple Research Center’s Dr. Abby van den Berg, who’s been developing a new suction-based method that targets saplings as opposed to fully-grown trees for harvesters with limited acreage.  

8. $18 Million Worth Was Recently Stolen From Quebec.

Just as OPEC maintains huge oil reserves, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers keeps a tightly-guarded stockpile of maple syrup that’s dipped into and redistributed to various participants during lean production years. In 2012, shiftless crooks invaded the federation's primary warehouse and lifted 6 million pounds of the sweet stuff, making it one of the largest agricultural thefts ever perpetrated. Since then, 23 people have been arrested in conjunction with the case but, sadly, a third of the stolen syrup remains unaccounted for.

9. Alfred University’s Offered a Maple Syrup Course.

This Western New York school’s catalogue has, at times, included “Maple Syrup: The Real Thing." As the official course description explains, “The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change ... This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals. No prior experience expected.”

10. McDonald’s and The State of Vermont Once Got into a Legal Tussle Over False Syrup.

Vermonters definitely weren’t lovin’ it when a misleading snack called “Fruit & Maple Oatmeal” emerged from the Golden Arches in 2011. Local law dictates that it’s illegal to “use the word ‘maple’ on a product unless the sweetener is 100 percent pure maple." McDonald's’ new dish didn’t exactly meet this criteria, and the authorities cried foul. “The word 'maple' has a very specific meaning to Vermonters,” explained state Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. “Vermont maple products are renowned not only for their flavor, but for their quality.” In an ensuing settlement, Mickey D’s agreed to start offering Green Mountain staters the option of coating their oatmeal orders with certified, honest-to-goodness maple syrup or sugar.