Chocolate Fondue? Been there, done that. Celebrate the maple season (February to April) with a Maple Fondue.
This recipe goes beyond simply serving maple syrup in a fondue pot accompanied by fruits. This Maple Fondue elegantly combines maple syrup, cream and cognac to create a rich and velvety delight.
Everyone is well aware of the passionate love affair between Canadians and Maple Syrup. The national flag bears the maple leaf and the official arboreal emblem is the maple tree. Canada is the main producer of maple syrup in the world, and by a long shot: producing 85% of the world’s supply. The breakdown by province is as follows: Québec leading with 94%, followed by New Brunswick 5%, then Ontario and Nova Scotia account for 1%. Although our share of maple syrup production seems small in New Brunswick, it is still considerable given that Québec is more than 20 times larger in surface area than New Brunswick. In relative terms, New Brunswick produces roughly as much maple syrup as Québec by square kilometer.
Maple syrup is made by boiling down collected sap from tapped maple trees. Maple sap being immensely watery, 98% is water, it takes roughly 40 litres of sap to produce a single litre of syrup. Some producers also use reverse osmosis devices to remove most of the water in sap without heat; this method being highly energy-efficient.
A specific set of climate conditions are necessary in order for maple trees to secrete sap: days must have above-freezing temperatures while nights in contrast need to be below-freezing. These extreme variations in temperature are also responsible for the potholes in our roads during springtime.
The First Nations people of eastern North America have been tapping maple trees long before their discovery by European settlers. Legends and myths around maple sap were present in tribes such as the Algonquins, Iroquois, and Ojibways. The first documented reference to maple sap dates back to 1634 by Father Paul le Jeune in his Relations des Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France. Some credit is attributed to French settlers for converting the maple sap into syrup/sugar with their use of iron kettles to boil down the watery sap. Acadians have been tapping maple trees ever since and referred to it as sucre de pays (home-made sugar). Col. James Smith writes in 1799 that First Nations tribes also had their own ingenious ways of converting sap into sugar without the use of kettles: they would freeze the sap, then discard the ice leaving only sugar.
There is even a Heritage Minute about maple syrup. Heritage Minutes are one-minute videos of defining moments in Canadian history aired during commercial breaks on television broadcast stations since 1991. For the curious, some of them can be viewed on Youtube, the one on Maple Syrup is uploaded. Many Canadians can recite Heritage Minutes by heart. As a result, and on a less serious tone, there is even a (unofficial drinking) game where the goal is to charade as many Heritage Minutes as possible.
The maple syrup business has grown to over a 350 million dollar-industry in Canada. The Quebec maple syrup industry even maintains a ‘‘global strategic maple syrup reserve’’, or what the IMF calls it in an article a ‘‘Canadian cartel: something of a one-nation version of OPEC for maple syrup’’. There have been multiple maple syrup heists over the years. In 2012, thieves stole 10,000 barrels of the liquid gold worth 18 million dollars, representing 10% of the reserve.
- 1 cup (250 ml) of maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of corn starch, diluted in 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of water
- 1 cup (250 ml) of whipping cream, 35%
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cognac (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) of salt
- fresh fruit
- In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the corn starch and water mixture to the maple syrup, then add the cream. Simmer and stir until the fondue has thickened.
- Remove from heat. Add cognac (optional) and salt, then stir. Serve with fresh fruit and baguette.