When we first investigated the option of Maple Sugar, we didn’t know very much about the history of the product. Some research brought to light some interesting facts about Maple, dating all the way back to the 18th century.
Most people know that Maple products are an iconic symbol of Canadian culture and history. It’s common knowledge that Quebec especially, as well as other parts of Canada, are famous for the tapping of Maple trees for the sap needed to make syrups, sugars, and extracts. But the history of Maple, goes much deeper than a cliché flavour added to donuts or poured over pancakes.
The First Nations people had a holistic approach to nature. They used everything around them, leaving as little waste as possible. They used Maple water, the sap coming from a Maple tree, for two main reasons. The first was as a tonic, and the other was as an eyewash.
During the winter, their shelters were often filled with smoke despite their efforts to clear it. They splashed Maple water in their eyes to refresh them and alleviate the sting from the smoke.
As a tonic, they believed Maple water was useful in “lung pain” caused from coughing or respiratory issues. When French explorers investigated Maple water, they agreed with the First Nations on the health benefits of the tonic. They deduced that it provided energy and calmed harsh breathing.
The First Nations quickly realized that Maple water could be heated to form a syrup, or dried into a sugar. The French colonists in Canada chose not to use it however, because at the time they believed that to be “pure” food should be white. They dubbed Maple sugar “Red Sugar” because of it’s brown colour that couldn’t be whitened despite many attempts. Therefore, they primarily used traditional white sugar.
After the English conquest, things began to change. There was much less access to imported goods like white sugar, and so Maple sugar and Maple syrup became the sweetener of choice in cooking, or used as a condiment on food. With the arrival of cans and barrels in the 1920’s, Maple sugar and syrup became a commercial good because it could suddenly be preserved and stored. At this point Maple syrups and sugars were essentially used and sold the same way as they are today. A part of Canada’s history that has remained largely unchanged for almost a hundred years.
We are thrilled to have recently added a relevant new product, 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup Sugar, to our unique line-up. To check out this healthy and natural alternative for coffee or tea, click here.
To check out a recipe for a Maple Mocha, check out the 100 Days of Real Food blog for details.