Maple Sugar: The Native American Sweetener

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Maple sugar is made from maple syrup, which was being used and processed into sugar long before the arrival of Europeans in North America. At the end of winter, the Native Americans would boil the sap of the maple tree to remove moisture and produce sugar that they could use throughout the rest of the year. It is commonly accepted among historians that the Europeans learned about harvesting and processing maple from the Native Americans.

Sinsibuckwud is the Algonquin word for maple sugar. The Algonquin legend regarding the discovery of maple syrup’s delightful flavor is that it was discovered by a chief who struck a maple tree with his ax. His wife saw the sap dripping from the tree, collected it in a bucket and used it to boil meat.

The Europeans would utilize spouts to draw the sap, an improvement on the Native American technique of making incisions in the tree trunks. Maple sugar was used as an alternative to cane sugar in the 17th and 18th century. Abolitionists who wanted to protest cane sugar’s reliance on slave labor promoted the change. Nevertheless, cane sugar would surpass maple sugar as America’s main sugar in the middle of the 19th century. Refinements to the maple syrup processing method were made around this time as well. Producers started to use evaporators to shorten the time it took to process sap into maple syrup and then into maple sugar.

The 20th century would bring about further developments in the harvesting and processing of maple syrup, including the use of plastic tubing to take the sap directly to the evaporator for processing.

Flavor profile of maple sugar

Maple sugar offers sweetness along with a light maple flavor. That maple flavor can be described as buttery with hints of vanilla and caramel.

Health benefits of maple sugar

Unlike most other forms of sugar, maple sugar does have significant quantities of certain nutrients. Those nutrients include:

  • Minerals: An ounce of maple sugar provides 2 percent of your daily calcium requirement, 2 percent of your iron requirement and 1 percent of your magnesium requirement. While these are just small fractions of the amounts that you need every day, they are still significant for a relatively small serving size. Calcium and magnesium are important for bone health, and iron is essential for the transport of oxygen in the blood. Maple sugar also has trace amounts of other minerals including zinc and potassium.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants help to protect your body from oxidative stress. The antioxidants in maple sugar include gallic acid and benzoic acid.
  • Sucrose: Sucrose is the main sugar in maple sugar and provides you with energy.

Maple sugar may help to treat or lower your risk for various diseases and health conditions, including:

  • Obesity: Maple syrup has fewer calories per teaspoon (11 calories) when compared to refined white sugar (16 calories). As a result, you can use it to help with weight loss or prevent obesity.
  • Cancer: The antioxidants in maple sugar are important for countering oxidative stress, which can cause serious diseases including cancer.
  • Osteoporosis: The calcium and magnesium in maple sugar can help to slow the loss of bone density that is the main characteristic of osteoporosis.

Common uses of maple sugar

You can use maple sugar as a substitute for brown sugar or white cane sugar. Maple sugar’s distinctive flavor makes it a perfect complement to a range of foods. Common uses for maple sugar include as a sweetener for oatmeal, as a topping for buttered toast or you can add it to a dry rub for grilling meat. It also makes a good substitute for both light and dark brown sugar.