Quebec’s maple syrup producers are teaming up with the province’s research community to transform this iconic Canadian foodstuff into a staple of sophisticated cuisine with a character as nuanced as any of the world’s fine wines.
An improved understanding of maple syrup’s chemical behaviour could elevate this Canadian comestible to the echelons of haute cuisine. Photo credit: Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec
The Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), in partnership with the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec (FPAQ), has created a five-year program with a $1.4 million budget to explore the chemical underpinnings of maple syrup’s flavour and how it melds with other food ingredients. This work will refine the way in which maple-based products are classified and how they behave under specific cooking conditions.
The resulting knowledge should improve our understanding of syrup, taffy, butter, sugars, flakes and alcohol derived from a maple source. More specifically, the program will examine caramelization and how maple sugars participate in the Maillard reaction, the combination of amino acids and reducing agents that yields the desirable flavour of browned foods such as seared meats or pan-fried dumplings. “There’s a great deal to study in terms of density and texture,” says Maryse Lassonde, scientific director of FRQNT. “We’ll be better able to define the qualities of maple syrup.”
Similar undertakings have already improved the way in which wines are produced and consumed around the world, but Lassonde also points to work that has been done to enhance and diversify the output of Quebec’s dairy industry. “I see what we have been able to do with milk and I’d like to see the same thing happen with maple syrup, which is another important part of our identity,” Lassonde says.