Maple Syrup and Sugar

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Long before Europeans introduced the honeybee, the natives of North America had developed their own delicious concentrated sweets. Several Indian tribes, notably the Algonquins, Iroquois, and Ojibways, had well-established myths about and terminologies for maple sugaring by the time that European explorers encountered them. Thanks to a remarkable document, we have some idea of how ingenious they were at extracting and concentrating the tree sap (see box). All they needed was a tomahawk to cut into the tree, a wood chip to keep the wound open, sheets of elm bark for containers, and cold nights to freeze the water into pure ice crystals that could then be removed from the ever more concentrated sap.