Friday Flashback: Staples Syrup, the Best in Show

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A friday flashback moment. Last year, around this time, I wrote this Peterborough This Week column on Jill and Robert Staples and their award winning syrup.

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The Art of Maple Syrup
It was way back in 1813 when the Staple family, newly landed in Central Ontario, first took notice of the maple syrup potential of the Peterborough area.

In fact, the first letters back to the old country contained references to “the sweet sap” that came from the local trees, and the tasty wild strawberries that dotted the local meadows.

It’s no wonder that, nearly 200 years later, the descendants of these early settlers are making syrup that stands as among the best in the world. Actually, depending on the year, they are making the best maple syrup in the world.

Jill and Robert Staples, you see, have been world champion syrup makers four times in the past decade. They’ve been runners-up numerous times, and had their individual grades of syrup place first in separate categories more times than they can count. These folks know sweetness.

Lucky for us, the taste of this year’s sweet success is currently hitting store shelves and farmers markets. I was fortunate enough to be there while they were boiling down this year’s batch.

This year, however, things were a bit different.

Our very uncharacteristic warm spring meant that sap started flowing much earlier than usual. It also only flowed for a much shorter time.

“It’s definitely been a strange season,” said Robert. “And our yield is going to be a fraction of what it is in normal years.”

Will it affect the taste?

“Each year is different,” he explained. “It’s hard to tell what the syrup will be like from season to season, and even from different parts of the season. It’s still going to be great syrup though.”

And he should know. His knowledge of syrup stems from working the Staples sugar bush with both his father and his grandfather. A lot of knowledge has been passed on through the generations.

This skill has earned a number of accolades – including an invitation to supply syrup for participants at the Olympic Games.

“We had to turn that one down,” chuckled Jill. “We have a lot of very loyal and dedicated customers in this area. And there is only so much syrup to go around. We felt it wouldn’t be fair to our customers to send so much of our product out.”

How precious is this liquid gold?

On average, it takes 30 or 40 litres of sap to produce one litre of finished product. While the Staples tap an astounding 4,000 trees on their property, there are still limits on how much they can produce for sale.

“This year is going to be tougher than others,” confesses Robert. “But there should still be enough to go around.”

With this year’s batch making its way across our area, it is the perfect time to try their award winning syrup for yourself.

You can find their syrup – as well as maple sugar and maple butter – at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, the Canadian Canoe Museum, the Millbrook Foodland, as well as at several local restaurants (check with the Staples to find out who is currently serving and cooking with it).

You can also purchase it directly from their farm. You can find the Staples on Highway 7A (between Cavan and Bethany), or you can give them a call at 705-944-5501 for more information.

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