Maple Syrup: Relish the Real

Learn why in today’s over-sugared culture, the author says we need a better option and why real food always trumps the alternatives.

Photo by Michelle Visser

I’ll confess. I’m a maple-syrup-aholic. I slather my pancakes with our homemade syrup and bake with it and maple sugar with guilt-free abandon, but this was not always the case. I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I’m going to come clean. I’m going to admit something that you probably won’t relate to, since, well, you chose to read a book about how to make maple syrup. Here goes … I never liked rich, real maple syrup. I (gasp) preferred store-bought, fructose-laden, highly processed syrup in a bottle shaped like a sweet old lady. I can’t explain this irrational behavior to you, now that I am oh-so-much wiser. I didn’t see real syrup’s value for the first four decades of my life.

Real food always trumps the alternatives

It was 100 percent Bill’s idea to tap into the sugary joy running through the veins of the maples in our woods. I went along with the craziness just because it would be a great family project. The first few months, nothing changed my mind about maple syrup. Our eight measly jars of it were horribly dark, slightly crystalized, not-very-good-tasting, low-rate syrup, but when Bill experimented with a new product, when a few jars of syrup were crystalized beyond hope, and he (literally) whipped up some maple sugar, I was a convert. Now I was whole-heartedly “in” on this new family project. Folks say you want to use the best syrup to make the best maple sugar, but holy cow if that first batch of our maple sugar was “bad,” well, I’ll take “bad” maple sugar any day.

Then two things happened the following winter that turned my heart away from the dark side of not-real syrup forever. First of all, we talked to some experts and stopped “winging it” with our turning-sap-into-syrup efforts. As a result, we started churning out heavenly jars of golden liquid sugar. Secondly, I started reading about the goodness of real maple syrup. Until I became more knowledgeable myself, I didn’t partake too much in our family’s exuberance over maple syrup. In fact, I used it sparingly. I still thought the highly processed syrup on aisle 5 of my grocery store was somehow better for me. I was concerned that our homemade liquid sugary gold was too high in, well, sugar. What I wasn’t thinking about was the difference in the sugar processed in a factory versus the sugar being created in nature — my own little wooded corner of nature, as a matter of fact.

Real food, gathered and packaged in real ways, will always trump any other alternative. Scientists have invested lots of lab time analyzing the properties of maple syrup, and the findings are incredible. While sugary foods aren’t exactly revered for their health benefits, maple syrup may be the healthiest way to sweeten your food. Compare refined sugar, which is highly processed with zero nutrition, to maple syrup — an all-natural, totally real food — and maple syrup always wins. If used in moderation, it’s truly a super food. Since maple syrup is also calorie dense, you do want to avoid overeating it, unless you enjoy weight gain. Since a high intake of any sugar can lead to dental decay, you do want to brush well after enjoying a syrupy treat, but as long as you eat it wisely, pure, all-natural, amazing maple syrup is, in my opinion, as good as a sweetener gets, y’all. I think the basic reason for that lies in the fact that we eat it in its natural state. In today’s over-sugared culture, we need a truly healthy option.

Real food has been around since the beginning, and it hasn't been proven wrong so far. Photo by Michelle Visser

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