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The Glory of Maple Syrup

An interview with Rose Valley Maple Syrup and a tasty maple recipe too

Learn some facts about harvesting maple syrup that you may not know.

Did you know that Algoma's maple syrup producers collectively produce the most syrup of any region in the Province of Ontario? Yes, we’re well known for our maple syrup!

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with one of those Algoma producers, Judy Hughes. Along with her husband Norman, she operates Rose Valley Maple Syrup in Laird, Ontario. They are one of many family-operated maple syrup producers in our region and are very passionate about what they do.

While the 2017 syrup production season is winding down and clean-up has begun, Judy had a chance to catch her breath and talk with me. She told me that this year was not the best on record, since Mother Nature determines the outcomes of the season. She did indicate that the trees in Algoma are very healthy, as climate change hasn’t affected them as much as it has other areas south of us. With more than 16 years in the business, they have over 2,600 taps and are considered a mid-size operation. Rose Valley Maple Syrup operates on 40 acres of land, with the potential to increase to 80 acres with newly purchased land.

(Photo credit: Rose Valley Maple Syrup)

Tourists would be interested in knowing that maple syrup producers are careful stewards of their land. The forest in which sugar maples grow can be very diverse in terms of the numbers of different species of trees found in it. This diversity ensures that invasive species will not thrive, as is the case in a mono-culture environment. Many kinds of wildlife thrive in a sugar bush like, elk, deer, bear, moose, and smaller mammals and reptiles. Judy told me that while some animals like to chew on lines and spigots, this is just part of the maintenance and repair routine a maple syrup producer does. She told me it is interesting to note that some of the bigger mammals, like moose and deer, will walk around the sap lines which connect the trees, rather than walk through them and cause damage.

Like most producers in Algoma, Rose Valley powers their sap evaporator with cut and split wood taken from their own property. This is one way they can keep their forest healthy by removing dead, diseased and windfall trees. Even though the sap runs for a short six weeks, the work for a maple syrup producer is year-round.

The Algoma region is the perfect destination for the culinary/food tourist as well as the ecotourist. Mother Nature provides the Algoma region with endless opportunities for those who like to experience the natural environment and eco-friendly farming operations. Starting in the early spring, the numerous maple sugar bushes and the maple syrup operations in the region are sweet examples of this.

Rose Valley sells maple syrup, maple sugar candy, maple tea, maple butter and maple sugar. (Photo credit: Rose Valley Maple Syrup)

Most maple syrup producers are happy to give tours if they don’t already have a pancake house or other tourist attractions on their site. Just give them a call first and set it up. "Like farmers, we’re all great talkers", Judy explained: "we’re happy to share our knowledge and talk about what we do."

I asked Judy what was the one thing she wanted to make sure people knew about maple syrup. She wants everyone, including home cooks and chefs, to know that besides the health benefits of maple syrup, (minerals and antioxidants), people should be aware of the new International grading system for maple syrup.

There are four grades:

  • Golden - delicate taste
  • Amber - rich taste
  • Dark - robust taste
  • Very Dark - strong taste

(Photo credit: Rose Valley Maple Syrup)

Everyone is encouraged to try different types, ones they may have not tried before. The darker the grade, the more maple flavour!

Tourists and travellers can find Rose Valley Maple Syrup and others on the website, along with many more facts and recipes for this unique food delicacy.

Visit the Johnson Farmers' Market in Desbarats to purchase Rose Valley's syrup. (Photo credit: Rose Valley Maple Syrup)

Here is a favourite recipe shared by Judy, passed down to her from other maple syrup producers!

Maple Pecan Squares

1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar (can be maple sugar if desired)
Combine flour and sugar, cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Press into a greased 9 x 9 pan. Bake @ 375° F for 15 minutes.

2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup Algoma maple syrup
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla (or maple flavouring)
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine everything except the nuts and beat well. Fold in nuts. Pour over hot crust and bake an additional 25 minutes or until firm. Don't under bake. Very good served warm or cool. Enjoy!

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