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Our vendor, Cleary's:
Cleary’s is a Quebec, Canada-based company with unrivalled expertise in the transformation of 100% natural, top-quality maple syrup into distinctive and outstanding products. Items are available in bulk and organic. Attractive and popular gift boxes, baskets, and bottles are available and make ideal personal or corporate gifts for any occasion.
The Cleary family, entrepreneurs living in the Beauce region, in the heart of the Canadian syrup-producing area, founded the company in May 1993. The Clearys have a half-century of experience in running their own business, and their firm has rapidly grown into an international player in the maple products market. As of September 2000, the company employs 20-25 workers, as well as 20 sales representatives.
The objective of Cleary's is to familiarize consumers around the world with maple syrup and maple products and to promote them as both healthy and gourmet items.
A Brief History of Maple Syrup
Long before explorers came to Canada, the native Indians had learned how to draw off maple sap and boil it to make sugar. In early spring, they would pierce the tree trunk with a tomahawk, placing a wood chip under the hole to channel the maple water into a bark receptacle. They then boiled the sap in clay containers to obtain maple sugar.
In the early 18th century, our ancestors began to take an interest in maple products as well. They also perforated the tree trunk and inserted a cedar "spile" that channeled the sap into a wooden trough.
At first, they produced only enough to meet their own needs. They made hard slabs of sugar that could be stored for a year in the open air. In the 19th century, when the maple sugar industry became very lucrative, producers perfected their equipment and progressively increased the size of their sugar bushes.
Making Maple Syrup
During the growing season, maple trees accumulate starch. With the spring thaw, enzymes change this starch into sugar, which mixes with the water absorbed through the roots, imparting a slightly sweet taste. While maple water also contains minerals, organic acids, and maple taste precursors, water is its main component (99-99%).
Of the six species native to Quebec, Sugar Maple and Red Maple are the most valuable commercially for syrup production.
Maples dominate most of Quebec's hardwood forests.
In early spring, on snowshoes, maple producers tap their trees. They bore holes 5 cm deep with a drill 1 cm in diameter and drive a spile into the hole. This metal spout directs the maple sap into a bucket or a system of polyethylene tubes winding in and out of the trees.
Collecting the sap
Near the mid-1970s, this technique was gradually replaced by a tubing system, in which a partial vacuum is maintained using a pump. This method of collection, which does not damage the trees, yields more sap and reduces the manpower required. It allows the producer to tap more trees, including those located in rugged terrain.
Boiling the sap
Maple water is transformed into maple in a sugarhouse or "sugar shack". In this building, the sap is boiled in a large pan, the evaporator. Most of the water in it evaporates during this process, leaving concentrated maple sugar.
The art of sugaring is centered on this piece of equipment. From the time the maple water is poured into the evaporator, to the time it turns into syrup, it undergoes a complex chain of chemical reactions which produce the characteristically "maple" color and flavor. Almost forty liters of maple water must be evaporated to produce one liter of syrup. Increasingly, producers are using machines that partially concentrate the sap by reverse osmosis, an advanced technique which offers energy savings of 60%, while conserving original maple product characteristics.
Maple products are best known in their traditional form. Natural sugar, they are becoming a highly valued ingredient in a wide range of food products such as deli meats, confectionery and prepared cereals.
Like all other foodstuffs, maple products are governed by strict production, processing, and marketing regulations.
All consumer products sold must be labeled indicating weight, exact product name, and names and addresses of the producer and packer. Labels on maple syrup must also indicate product category and color.
Since 1994, the Regroupement pour la commercialisation des produits de l'érable du Québec inc. (RCPEQ), working with the provincial and federal governments, has inspected and classified its member's maple products.
Seals and stickers are affixed to bulk containers after inspection. Given RCPEQ's distinctive identification, consumers can recognize Quebec maple products that have passed quality control tests.
Classification of maple syrup by color is more a guide for flavor than an indication of the quality level: the extra pale syrup has a delicate taste, and darker, medium-grade syrup has a stronger, caramelized taste. The latter is ideal for cooking, deserts, and confectionery. Colors shown below: (left to right) Light, Medium, Amber, Dark.
Grades of Maple Syrup
Sugaring-off parties have always been a time to relax and enjoy oneself outdoors. A typical French-Canadian meal is usually served in a building adjoining the sugar shack.
After the meal, some visitors stroll through the sugar bush, while others go snowshoeing or look at the sugaring equipment. During this time, the owner boils some syrup for the traditional sampling of maple toffee on snow.
Quebec is the world's top-ranking maple syrup producer, accounting for more than 70% of all production. In addition to constituting an important element in Quebec's agroforestal heritage, the maple industry generates significant earnings in several regions with otherwise limited agricultural potential. Maple production also encourages the tapped areas to become inhabited.
Sugar Bush Management
When managing their sugar bushes, maple producers strive for the highest yield possible, while meeting sustainable development imperatives.
They use strong, flawless trees whose sap is very sweet. Since trees must be at least 5 meters apart, those of poorer quality are cut down and used for firewood. The sugar bush is a fragile environment and producers must ensure that a variety of species coexist in order to maintain a productive, stable ecosystem.
Did you know that...
Legend has it that a native Indian woman once left her dinner simmering under a broken maple branch. The maple sap dripped into the pot all day and when the woman came back, she was surprised to find her meal bathed in a wonderful syrup.
Pure maple syrup has no additives and no preservatives.
Maple Syrup has a lower caloric value than certain other sweeteners:
Maple syrup is full of vitamins (A and C) and minerals, including potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
The sugar maple tree can live up to 250 years. Its winged fruit
is called a "samara". It takes a maple tree 40 years to be ready for
Maple syrup can also be used to replace sugar in your
favorite recipes, reducing the amount of sugar called for by on quarter. Simply replace 1 cup of white sugar with 2/3 cups of pure maple
syrup (or substitute 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup for every 4 tablespoons
As of 1999, Quebec provides 90% of Canada's maple syrup production and 73% of world production. Quebec alone uses 13% of the world's production.