Maple Syrup


The skill of collecting and processing the sweet sap of the sugar maple was known and valued by the native peoples of eastern North America long before the arrival of European settlers. There is even an Iroquois legend to explain the discovery of maple syrup. As the story goes, an Iroquois chief yanked his hatchet out of the maple tree where he had left it, and set off for a day of hunting. He didn’t notice the deep gash his blade had left in the tree, but all day a colourless liquid trickled from the gash, collecting in a birchbark bowl that was leaning against the maple tree. The following day his wife noticed the full bowl, and thinking it was water, used the liquid to cook a venison stew. The resulting sweet stew was a happy accident, beginning the culinary tradition of maple-cured meats.

By watching the native peoples, Canada’s early settlers learned how to tap maple trees and boil the sap down to make syrup. They experimented with native methods and improved upon them. Instead of gashing the bark, settlers drilled holes in the tree, pushing wooden spouts, or spiles, into the holes. They hung buckets from nails below the spiles to protect the buckets from strong winds or animals. They also used iron pots over open fires to evaporate the water.


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