The food science behind maple

The food science behind maple

With a flavour and sweetness like no other, maple butter, sugar and syrup make every food taste better.

The flavours in maple syrup range from delicate caramel to bright berry to a distinct woodsiness, making it a uniquely versatile ingredient. Nothing compares when it comes to marrying flavours, tantalizing the senses and adding that inimitable aroma to liven up your recipes. Give it a try!

With a flavour and sweetness like no other, maple butter, sugar and syrup make every food taste better. It's a good way to help the little and big kids in your life eat more of those healthy foods they may otherwise resist, like veggies, fish, tofu or milk.

A closer look at taste

The five basic taste sensations are salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, which is Japanese for “delicious.” Each has its own characteristics. Saltiness denotes the presence of minerals, sweetness energy, bitterness decomposition, sourness poison and umami the presence of proteins. While proteins have no flavour in and of themselves, the amino acids that are created as proteins break down create the umami flavour. Amino acids must be dissolved in water to express their flavour.

The brain at the heart of taste

The Maillard reaction is a visible chemical reaction that takes place when a food is cooked. It is a thermal reaction produced between amino acids and sugar. This is what happens to most foods that brown when heated. Taste and smell are not perceived independently by the brain, but rather blend together. That's why our perception of taste can vary depending on the accompanying aroma. For example, the smell of strawberries or vanilla brings out sweetness, while the smell of soy sauce accentuates the salty. Some experts think that the Maillard reaction is responsible for the perception of umami.

The mystery of the unique taste of maple revealed...

In order to make maple syrup, you have to heat it. So the Maillard reaction begins early in the production process, creating aromatic compounds that bring out the umami flavour. This is one of the reasons why maple syrup enhances the flavour of your food. We might say, then, that creating complex aromas by adding maple syrup results in complexly flavoured dishes.

Maple pairs perfectly with Japanese food

When maple syrup is heated and reacts with the amino acids in the quintessential ingredients in Japanese cooking, mirin and soy sauce, flavours become richer. Like maple syrup, foods derived from tree sap also contain aromatic compounds such as vanillin and syringaldehyde, which also turn up in smoked products (such as katsuobushi). Related aromatic compounds (furfural and sotolone) are found in soy sauce. In general, foods with the same aromatic compounds pair well. We might say, then, that maple syrup and certain common ingredients in Japanese cooking (soy, katsuobushi) are chemically compatible!