Maple sugar is sweetener produced by maple trees. It’s the primary ingredient (along with water) in real maple syrup. Also known as granulated maple sugar it is produced by removing water from maple syrup till only the sugar crystals are left.
Maple sugar can be used as a sweetener anywhere that sugar is used but teaspoon for teaspoon it has fewer calories than cane sugar and it has a lower glycemic impact on the body. It can be purchased for baking and other uses or it can be made if you have the right equipment.
Where does maple sugar come from?
As mentioned, maple sugar is produced by maple trees. The sugar is produced as the maple tree converts sunshine to sugar via photogenesis . The sugar is stored in the roots during the fall for use in jump starting leaf growth in the spring.
In the spring as the ground thaws, cold and warm temperature swings cause the sugary water called sap to rise to the maple trees branches to feed the budding leaves. This sap travels through the outer layer of the tree. Small holes are drilled into the outer bark and wood of the tree to capture a very small portion of this sugary water. The sap contains about 96-99% water. The rest is sugar!
The sap is then concentrated by removing excess water until there is only about 33% of the water left. This liquid is called maple syrup. It’s mostly sugar but the water makes it liquidy.
To make granulated maple sugar, the syrup is then further boiled until the temperature is around 265° and then stirred until all the water is gone and only granulated maple sugar is left. It is further “refined” by sifting it and removing any large chunks that may have formed.
What is maple sugar made up of?
Maple sugar is one of the healthier natural sugars. It is a source of antioxidants and trace minerals like manganese, riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium – all important minerals for health. This means that there are a lot of health benefits to maple sugar!
Where to buy it
Maple sugar is available at many stores but you’ll pay a premium for that. The cheapest option to is buy it online, direct from a producer. You get a lower price and more sugar so you can use it more frequently and you help a producer at the same time. The sugar you’ll buy in most grocery stores is from wholesale buyers who often pay producers the lowest price so buying direct helps them out.
If you need bulk quantities (10, 20 or more pounds), you can even buy that online with FREE SHIPPING! 20lbs sells for $175 and since it is a dry product it is shelf stable so you don’t need to worry about it expiring. See also our article Does maple syrup go bad?
How to make maple sugar
In addition to being purchased online, maple sugar can also be made relatively easily in your home if you have the right tools. To make maple sugar you will need a medium to large saucepan, a candy thermometer, wooden spoon or spatula and some maple syrup. Most maple syrup can be used but occasionally some very dark syrup will not granulate. It also helps to have a little canola oil to spray or add a few drops to knock down the foam that will inevitably appear. If you want to make more than quart at a time, you might want to consider using a stand mixer for the final step.
Start by pouring a quart of syrup in a medium saucepan. You can add more syrup into a larger saucepan but unless you are going to use a stand mixer, your arm might get tired. Heat the syrup on a low to medium heat. Allow the syrup to come to a boil. As it comes to a boil it will start to foam up – if it comes to a boil too fast it will foam over.
Tip – as it comes to a boil, add a few drops of canola oil. The foam will dissipate.
Allow the syrup to come to a solid boil. When it does, you can slowly increase the temperature and allow the syrup the boil faster. A faster boil will not burn the syrup. Watch for foam! If it foams over, add some canola drops or turn down your burner.
Once you have a solid, steady boil, monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer and wait for it to reach at least 260°. 265° is better because it will granulate faster. Once it reaches that temperature, pour it into a mixing bowl. Start stirring it by hand with a wooden spoon or start your stand mixer on low. Stir clockwise for about a minute and then counter clockwise for another. Alternate and then after about 5 minutes the mixer will get very hot and start to look like peanut butter. KEEP STIRRING. After another minutes the peanut butter like mixture will become powdery. The harder you stir at this point, the looser your sugar will become.
Each quart of syrup should produce about 1.5-2lbs of sugar. It’s normal to see chunks of sugar. Those can either be used in coffee or tea or thrown back into your mixer until they break apart and are small enough use in baking or other uses.
Maple sugar is a great natural sweetener than can be used anywhere that cane sugar is used. Hopefully this guide has shown you some of the benefits of using natural sugars. Be sure to check out our other exclusive Guides found only on LincOn.com.