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March is Maple Syrup Time

| 2/24/2014 2:43:00 PM

Country MoonFirst of all, my apologies to anyone born in the month of March, but to me the month is symbolized by cold, damp, sometimes blistery, gray days. The only bright spot is when the weather warms up in the 30-degree mark signaling it is maple syrup time.

I first caught the bug when I was in country school and the whole school (there were eight grades with two or three people in each grade) went to Mickolatcher’s  Sugarbush for a field trip. By the way, sugarbush is slang for a maple syrup farm.

Being a kid and seeing all the buckets hanging on the trees and going in the sap shack where they were boiling the syrup down seemed pretty spectacular to me. But, what really hooked me, was that first bite of maple candy. That was heaven in a one-inch square!

I remember that field trip like it was yesterday, and I vowed that someday I would tap our trees and boil the syrup, even if I ended up with only a cup. I say this because, as a rule of thumb, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Perhaps that is why this project is still on my bucket list.

However, I did learn some interesting facts while preparing for my venture. In a nutshell, maple syrup is made from xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. When the weather turns cold the trees store starch in their trunks and roots before winter sets in. When the weather warms the starch is converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring.

Trees are tapped by boring holes in the trunks to collect the sap. Contrary to what many believe, this tapping does not permanently hurt the trees. On an average, each tree will produce between nine and 13 gallons of sap a year. These days, plastic bags with metal hangers are usually used to collect the sap, but I still remember the old tin buckets of all shapes and sizes hanging on the trees.

2/27/2014 1:47:12 PM

Lois, yeah, kids. What do they know? My sister who was raised mostly in the city except for high school years was one to turn up her nose at fresh made butter from our farm. We had a herd of 13 cows that I milked morning and night so the supply of cream was always there. She likes the taste of margarine and still does to this day. Sugar maple time seems to me a lot of work. I have no idea how long it would take to boil down 40 gallons of sap into one gallon of maple syrup but I would think days. It's just not something that could be done in a homestead kitchen. I'm not sure that I've ever tasted real maple syrup and I'm just too cheap to buy it in the store. Have a great maple sugarbush day.

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