We have some good camping friends that have a maple sugar business. They are so enthusiastic about sugaring, that we caught the bug and tapped four maple trees in our yard. They loaned us a couple of pails, coached us through the process, and we have actually produced some maple syrup.
The grandkids helped with the whole process – drove the spiles into the trees, hooked the buckets on, attached the covers, and helped collect, screen, and weigh the sap.
Then we waited. You can’t hurry sap. It needs really warm, sunny days and cold nights.
The sap is now running. A couple of times we emptied the buckets twice a day. The sap that drips out of the maple trees is as clear as water. If a glass of sap was put next to a glass of water, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.
To arrive at the magic of maple syrup, the sap has to be boiled until it turns a beautiful carmel brown. This occurs when all the water has evaporated off the sap. It is a simple process – collect sap, boil it down until it reaches the correct temperature, and you have sweet maple syrup. There is one important thing – you need 10-15 gallons of sap to make 1 quart of syrup.
Recently we traveled north to see our friends and their sugar shack. We trekked over the hand-made wooden bridge to the woods, saw the miles of lines leading into the collection tank, and then spent time watching them boil.
Besides having a wonderful visit with good friends and watching the sugaring process, we had the best experience eating sugar on snow. The pure taste of that hot, boiled syrup on cold snow is something you can’t really describe in words except to say it is a true culinary delight. If you ever have an opportunity to try it, do yourself a favor and go for it.
After our sugaring adventure of 2012, no one in our family will ever take pure maple syrup for granted ever again.
If you have maple trees in your yard and if you or someone in your family would find the sugaring process interesting, why not give it a try. We’ve boiled three times this season and it takes quite a bit of time, but what an accomplishment to produce maple syrup from our own trees.
If you don’t have close friends with a sugar shack and a wealth of knowledge they are willing to share and you’d like more information, there is a wonderful site called TapMyTrees. They’re also on Facebook including a continuing question and answer session by viewers – it’s educational and amazing how creative people can be when coming up with cost effective sugaring equipment. http://www.facebook.com/TapMyTrees. There are hundreds if not thousands of articles on the web about how to do this. One of the first places to look is your county or state extension website for fact sheets which would be tailored to meet the needs of your climate and location.
My daughter has been working with the grandkids on history lessons going back to the Native American Indians and the first European settlers to see how it all started. What a wonderful opportunity to see history in action.
Now we are planning for sugaring in 2013. More pails? Maybe a line or two? Or will we continue to buy from our friends who have all the equipment to do it on a large scale? We’ll be pondering those questions over the next few months, but we do know we’ll continue to enjoy “real” maple syrup, appreciate the process required to take it from sap to syrup, and leave the grocery-store offerings to others.
Grandchildren dish on the sugaring process:
Grandson (6) – It takes about 50 hours to make, but it is good. I’m going to eat it on pancakes and waffles.
Granddaughter (11) – It takes a long time to make, but it is worth it. Definitely. I’m going to eat it on waffles, pancakes and toast.