Canada: “The Sugar Shack” captures iconic practice of making maple syrup

(Background photo courtesy U.S. Library of Congress)

The Royal Canadian Mint have launched a silver coin that pays tribute to one of the country’s best-known commodities: that of delicious maple syrup. Going back almost to the time of the first inhabitants of the region now known as Canada, the process of collecting maple sap and turning it into syrup has been part of life for literally generations.

The tradition of maple syrup dates back to Canada’s First Nations people, who introduced it to the settlers of New France. They, in turn, developed it into an industry that would make Canada internationally renowned as the primary producer of this tasty and unique treat. When it comes to the production of maple products, Canada is a world leader, providing a staggering 71% of the world’s pure maple syrup. Although Canada’s “maple belt” stretches from the western edges of Manitoba eastward to Nova Scotia, the primary producer is the province of Quebec, which produces 91% of Canadian maple syrup.

While maple syrup can be made from the sap of several maple species, the sap of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) tree boasts the ideal sugar content that makes Canada’s maple syrup so highly sought-after. In the summer and fall, the tree builds up starch reserves that mature over winter. The sugaring-off process is started by the freeze-thaw cycle of early spring, when cold nights followed by daytime temperatures above freezing (0º Celsius or 32º Fahrenheit) cause the sap to build up pressure within the tree.

As groundwater naturally mixes with the maple’s now-sugary sap, a tap-hole is bored into the tree, allowing this clear liquid to flow into buckets or through a tubed collection system leading back to a storage tank. The sap is then boiled down in the sugarhouse. It takes about 40 litres (or 10-1/2) gallons of sap to make just 1 litre (about 1 quart) of pure, delectable maple syrup. The process is simple yet time consuming. As the water content evaporates, the caramelized liquid thickens to a sweet golden syrup that, once filtered and graded for quality, eventually finds its way onto your breakfast table as the perfect topping for a hearty pancake breakfast.

Designed by Canadian artist Tony Bianco, the coin captures the wonder of a quintessentially Canadian tradition. The engraved scene is set in early spring, when the temperatures slowly climb during the day but fall again after sunset. The application of vibrant colour on the coin adds several focal points along the leafless landscape, which is otherwise dominated by silver and white. A sleigh pulled by a team of horses adds a timeless quality to the setting, as does the bright red sugarhouse nestled in the maple grove, where the sap is boiled to produce pure maple syrup. In the foreground, the eye is naturally drawn towards the bright winter clothing of a young child, who wonderingly peers into a bucket and curiously studies the collected sap.

The obverse features Susanna Blunt’s effigy of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which has been included on all Canadian circulation coins and many commemorative and collector coins since 2003. The denomination of 10 DOLLARS is placed below the Queen’s effigy.

Denom. Metal Weight Diameter Quality Mintage Limit
$10 .999 silver 15.8 g 34 mm Proof with applied colour 15,000

The Proof silver dollar is individually encapsulated and presented in a branded RCM custom box accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Please visit the website of the Royal Canadian Mint for additional information on this and other coins on offer.   ❑

Editor’s note—Although the Sugar Shack coin is Canadian, the vintage photo of a father and son gathering maple sap is obviously from a U.S. farm, as the photo is from the Library of Congress.

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