Spring is around the corner when sugar making starts. Maple syrup has gained importance as vegan sugar alternative. In early March, when snow is still on the ground, the sweet tree sap starts to flow, pushing the nourishing winter starch up before the tree chemistry changes, a perfect time for tapping and sugar making. Ups and downs around the freezing point determine the length of the sugaring season. NY State has a relatively short season to tap, approximately 6 weeks until the sap looses its sweetness. Real sugar production traditionally happens farther North, in Vermont or Canada, where the season is much longer. But large acreage and energy saving technology now make it even possible for large maple sugar businesses in New York.
Yesterday we visited the small Muscoot Farm near Katonah, which has 13 trees that are tapped for sugaring demonstrations. We even found out that we could put our invasive Norwegian maples to good use, although the sap of has only little sugar. If you taste the fresh maple sap, you only detect a faint sweetness, comparable to thin coconut water. To make the sweet syrup, about 90% of this water has to evaporate, which requires an energy efficient long term cooking method, such as a wood burning stove evaporator and good ventilation… try it indoors with an open cooker and the humidity would damage your kitchen, that’s why traditional sugar cooking happens outside in a sugar shack.
Vegan and RAW cooks that are looking into alternatives to sugar, use dates, RAW agave syrup, brown rice syrup or other rather exotic syrups (see list here). As most information is from the West Coast, they usually forget maple syrup as vegan and domestic sugar alternative. While traditional maple syrup is not RAW, modern technology also works with large indoor reverse osmosis systems that do not require lengthy cooking of maple sap. I will have to investigate further how that process works, and if this type of maples syrup can even qualify as RAW. See here my info on recommended sugar and sweeteners.