Maple products are trendier than ever. In Quebec, maple has been part of the culinary culture for centuries. These days, chefs, mixologists and foodies are more passionate about it than ever. From Germany to Japan, maple is making headlines. But what’s got everyone buzzing? “It’s a natural product, and a symbol of terroir just like wine,” explains Nathalie Langlois, Director of Promotion, Innovation and Market Development for the Producteurs et productrices acéricoles du Québec.
“Much like wine, maple syrup exhibits a complex aromatic profile,” Langlois tells us. “Depending on when it was harvested, the temperature at which it was evaporated, and the evaporation method used, you might get hints of vanilla and caramel, or woody, spicy and floral notes — there are no fewer than 88 flavours in total according to Agriculture Canada and Centre ACER’s flavour wheel! Syrup now falls into one of four colour classes: golden (delicate taste), amber (rich taste), dark (robust taste) or very dark (strong taste). It’s an incredibly versatile, all-four-seasons kind of food. It also exhibits umami* properties, which is why maple elevates mains, soups, meat dishes, desserts and so on…”
*Umami is one of the five basic tastes alongside sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It’s found in maple as it is in mushrooms, bacon, Parmesan, seaweed, tea and other foods. Umami can be expressed in smoky, salty and caramelized notes, or sometimes all three at once.
For chef Arnaud Marchand at Chez Boulay, a boreal bistro in the city of Québec, it’s the richness of its flavours that makes maple one of his absolute favourite ingredients. “I use maple in all its forms, in all kinds of recipes, often to replace refined cane sugar — like for a duck breast glaze. It’s also delicious with smoked meat or oven-roasted carrots. But beware of sugar overload! If I deglaze shallots with maple syrup, then I add a bit of vinegar for balance. Too many people only think maple when it comes to sweets and pancakes — and it’s too bad,” concludes Marchand.