I’ll admit that it was tremendously difficult to narrow in on the foods I was going to highlight in my Canada 150 blog series. But once I boiled all the choices down, (no pun intended!) maple syrup was a clear winner.
My love affair with maple syrup began early in my childhood. Many of my family's cherished traditions included this heavenly syrup, including:
- Tapping the large maple tree on our farm property (only to yield a VERY small ½ jar of syrup)
- Making Sunday post-church pancake lunches, and maple syrup was always the topping of choice
- Travelling to nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario to purchase a year's worth of maple syrup in the spring, then taking it home to portion into smaller jars, which were then frozen for use throughout the year
- Attending the annual Maple Syrup Festival located in Elmira, Ontario, which is recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest one-day maple syrup festival
Although I love my locally produced Ontario maple syrup, Quebec actually produces a majority of the maple syrup crop harvested in Canada each year.
Le Sirop D'érable - version Québécoise
Quebec is another stunning province within this great country of Canada. The last time I travelled to Quebec was in 2011 to enjoy a summer vacation with my hubby. I remember immediately being swept away by the European ambiance and the historic beauty of the buildings and preserved history.
The French language adds another layer of sophistication and romance to it all. Truth be told, maple syrup sounds far more sophisticated in French ... le sirop d'érable!
The process to produce maple syrup is a fascinating phenomenon of nature. If you haven't seen this in action before, I would highly recommend that you go on a tour of a sugar bush, where the magic happens! Long story short, it takes about 40 litres of sap to produce 1 litre of syrup!
Here are some fun factoids about maple syrup production in Canada and, specifically, Quebec:
- Quebec produces 72% of the world's pure maple syrup, while the rest of Canada (i.e. Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) contributes 8%
- 148.2 million pounds of maple syrup were produced in Quebec in 2016
- The U.S. is the largest importer of Canada's pure maple syrup supply
- There are 13,500 maple syrup producers and over 7,300 maple syrup businesses in Quebec
- Maple syrup production is sustainably produced; there are strict guidelines which producers must follow
A nutritionally superior sweetener
I try not to take sides when it comes to natural sweeteners, but one thing is for sure and that is that I wholeheartedly support local producers of both maple syrup and honey and you will find both of these items in my house all the time. The same cannot be said for sweeteners like agave nectar or coconut sugar.
Maple syrup is sugar, and yes, we shouldn't drink it by the litres, but I love that we get much MORE from it then sugar; in fact, we get lots of minerals which are essential for health. Maple syrup contains an excellent source of manganese (role in energy production and antioxidant defenses), riboflavin (involved in metabolism), zinc (involved in immunity) and other minerals including magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Did you now that the ratios of the sugars naturally present in syrup shift throughout the season, as well as the levels of amino acids and minerals? These natural shifts affect the colour and flavour (think light vs dark syrup), but not the quality. Lighter syrup is produced earlier on in the season and the darker syrups are produced towards the end of the harvest.
If you want to use maple syrup as a substitute for white granulated sugar in a recipe, try using 2/3 cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of white/refined sugar, reduce the liquid ingredients in the recipe by 1/4 cup and lower baking temp by 25 F. If substituting for another liquid sugar, use a 1:1 substitution.
Maple Roasted Vegetables
The quintessential "maple syrup foods" like pancakes, waffles, and other sweet desserts get most of the attention when we think of nature's perfect syrup. However, often overlooked, are the savoury dishes, and marinades and dressings used with this liquid gold. So, I thought I would jump outside of the norm and share with you one of my go-to roasted veggie recipes.
Roasting vegetables is the perfect way to spice up your drab relationship with veggies. I often hear from clients that eating vegetables is challenging for a number of reasons, one of which usually includes a lack of taste. Au contraire!! Roasting vegetables will transform your run-of-the-mill veg side dish into an epic flavourful adventure! You will never return to your microwaved frozen veggies again!
Maple Roasted Vegetables
Yield: 1-2 large baking sheets, depending on how much you throw in
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled
- 2 potatoes (white or sweet potatoes)
- 1 onion
- 1 zucchini
- 1 bulb fennel
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (try using the frans, or 'feathers' of the fennel bulb!)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
- Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.
- Wash and chop the above listed vegetables into bite-sized chunks. (FYI - Smaller chunks cook a bit faster)
- Spread vegetables, including the garlic, onto a roasting pan or cookie sheet. (I use Pampered Chef pans which don't require greasing but if using a glass pan, you my want to lightly grease the pan or use parchment paper.)
- In a small bowl, combine the oil, syrup, mustard and herbs. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and use your hands to toss and thoroughly coat the vegetables.
- Add a dash of salt and pepper, if desired.
- Roast the vegetables for 30-40 minutes, tossing them once half-way through the cooking time. Vegetables should be golden brown and a fork should easily pass through.
Note: this is a big batch recipe so if you can't eat all of these veggies in one sitting, save the leftovers to use in one of these dishes:
- Toss them with some quinoa and a simple maple-flavoured dressing for a quick roasted veg and quinoa salad
- Add to scrambled eggs and/or black beans for a savoury morning breakfast dish
- Throw into a wrap for your lunch
Take it one bite at a time,
- Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec. Retrieved March 30, 2017 at www.fpaq.ca/en.
- Pure Canada Maple. Retrieved March 30, 2017 at www.purecanadamaple.com.
- Canadian Nutrient File. Retrieved March 30, 2017 at https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp.