Legends abound about the origins of maple sugaring, but by the time European settlers arrived on the continent, the indigenous people had long been tapping trees for their sap. By the 1700s, both peoples were cooking it down to make sugar and syrup in iron and copper kettles. By the late part of that century, Quakers and abolitionists touted maple as an alternative to slave-produced West Indian cane sugar, and Thomas Jefferson even took on the cause, establishing a maple orchard at Monticello. His own crop didn't fare especially well, but it served to popularize maple with growers in Virginia and the North—in particular, with dairy farmers who relied on its sales in the off-season. Maple syrup production took off in earnest during the Civil War with the invention of tin cans and other equipment, and its inimitable, rich flavor has been satisfying America's sweet tooth (on much more than pancakes) ever since.
Make Maple Pot de Crème with Bourbon Cream.