We make maple syrup. Why? Well, it is a fun learning experience for the grandkids, and our family is very concerned about the source of our food supply.
We keep hens so we know where our eggs come from, we have dairy goats for a fresh supply of milk, and our vegetable gardens increase every year.
Which would you like your family to enjoy on their pancakes?
Pure maple syrup or
Store brands containing some combination of high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, liquid sugar, water, salt, cellulose gum, salt, molasses, sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, sodium hexametaphosphate, phosphoric acid, potasium sorbate, citric acid, carmel coloring, natural flavors, natural butter flavor, natural maple flavor, artificial maple flavor, or other artificial flavors
We try to adhere to Michael Pollan‘s theory “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 🙂
And, what is more natural than getting food from a tree in your yard? Sugaring is a wonderful family experience if you want your children or grandchildren to be closer to their food supply and understand the value and cost of the meals prepared for your table.
Collecting sap from maple trees and making maple syrup dates back to the 1600s when the Native American Indians traded maple syrup and maple sugar with the early European settlers.
We are lucky enough to have two very special friends who have a sugarhouse and with their advice and help, this is our second year of tapping our maple trees.
Sugaring season usually starts in late February or early March when the nights are still below freezing but the days are mild.
In order to tap a maple tree, it must be in good health and at least 10-12 inches in diameter. The larger the tree, the more taps it can support.
A 7/16-inch diameter hole, about 3 inches deep is usually drilled about waist-high on the tree. A spile is tapped into the hole and either a bucket with a lid is attached to the spile or plastic tubing is attached and runs through a line system to a central collection site.
Each tap hole can potentially yield up to ten gallons of sap.
Maple sap coming directly from the tree is clear and contains approximately 98% water and 2% sugar.
The water needs to be evaporated so the sap is boiled until it reaches seven and a half degrees above boiling point.
At this point it has become maple syrup and contains approximately 33% water and 67% sugar.
It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup making pure maple syrup fairly expensive in comparison to varieties found at the grocery store.
Sugaring season generally lasts from four to six weeks. When new leaves begin to bud on the trees, it is time to shut down for the year, clean the equipment, plan for the next season, and enjoy your maple syrup harvest.
If you want to try it yourself, and I’d highly recommend it, check out Tap My Trees, where you can find practical information and other families commenting about their sugaring adventures.
For more information about the interesting history of maple syrup, there is the New Hampshire Maple Producers or the Maple Museum, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has a historical account of how and why he promoted the use of maple sugar over cane sugar.
Grandson (7): It’s fun, and I like eating sugar on snow.
Granddaughter (12): It is interesting but making maple syrup takes a lot longer than you think.
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