Making Maple Syrup

Nothing is yummier than a big plate of pancakes, covered in fresh butter and swimming in natural maple syrup. It makes a rich satisfying and uniquely American breakfast.

Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees, most notably the sugar or rock maple and the black maple trees. Sometimes, the red maple tree is tapped also, but traditionally it is either rock maple or black maple.

Current areas of North America that produce maple syrup include Quebec and Ontario in Canada, and Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin in the U.S. For the best sap collection, the temperature during the days should be above freezing, with the night temperatures below freezing, with the late winter or early spring being the ideal time just before bud formation.

No one really knows who discovered that you could make delicious sugars and syrup from maple sap, but we do know that maple syrup was a major commodity to the North American Indians who used the products from the maple trees to barter with settlers. It is also known that the settlers took to this new treat with a fervor!

The process of making maple syrup is fairly simple. First you cut the bark of the tree or you drill a hole into the tree. A clear, watery, thin sap will run or leak out of this cut or hole. If you then boil this watery sap down, evaporating the water, you will eventually get maple syrup. It takes about 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple pancake syrup; and one single tree might yield ten gallons of sap over four weeks. So as you can see, it takes a lot of trees to make a gallon of syrup! It is not a quick process but like they say, good things come to those who wait!

Before 1940, sap was primarily collected in buckets by drilling a hole into the tree and pounding in a wooden tube for the bucket to hang off of. Nowadays, plastic taps and tubings are used with the sap pouring to a centralized location. Sap is traditionally boiled down in large, flat pans. Although gas and electricity are good heat sources; many maple syrup lovers prefer syrup that has been cooked down firewood which gives the syrup and an extra smoky flavor.

If you desire to make maple syrup yourself, and it is a relatively simple and easy, although time intensive, process, here are some tips and general instructions.

· Do not tap into trees smaller than 12 inches in diameter.

· Sap production is higher on the south side of the tree, especially earlier in the season.

· For the tree’s health, do not drill holes any deeper than three inches into the wood and no closer than six inches from previous holes.

· Drill holes at an upward angle, which will give you a spout hole that will run down due to gravity.

· If your tree is over two feet in diameter, you can drill up to four spouts. For smaller trees, do not drill more than two holes.

Once your holes are drilled into the tree, carefully and gently insert the spouts into the tree. You can attach old plastic milk cartons to the spouts to catch the sap. Bungee cords work well to hold the cartons in place.

As soon as you have collected the sap, you need to boil it down as soon as possible. Try not to wait more than two days, and then only if you have a cool place to store the sap.

It is best to boil your sap outside, or you will end up with a nasty, sticky residue all over the inside of your home or other facility. A simple wood fire pit works very well.

You will want to use a large pan that will hold at least a gallon of sap at a time, and you will need a long, wooden stirring spoon, a candy thermometer, a second gallon-sized container, a strainer and piece of cheesecloth large enough to cover the top of the pan at least twice.

Now fill the pan half full with sap and bring to a boil. Skim any scum or froth off with the strainer and dispose of this. After 20 minutes of boiling, you can add more sap. The sap will start to boil at 212 degrees, and as soon as the sap reaches 218 degrees it will be done and ready to be bottled.

Remove the pan and cover it tightly with the cheesecloth. Now, pour the syrup into your second pain, carefully straining it through the cheesecloth. Immediately, pour this fresh syrup into its final containers or bottles glass bottles are best to avoid melting.

Now, all you have to do is enjoy your delectable homemade maple syrup! YUM!

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My story is filled with broken pieces, terrible choices, and ugly truths. It is also filled with comebacks, peace in my soul, and a grace that has saved me.

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Julie Longstreet Wehmeyer

Julie Longstreet Wehmeyer

My story is filled with broken pieces, terrible choices, and ugly truths. It is also filled with comebacks, peace in my soul, and a grace that has saved me.

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