Last Friday I posted my second Girl on the Go event—making maple syrup. This past Saturday I went to Whitewater State Park to learn about the process. It was a beautiful day and perfect for collecting sugar maple sap.
The event started in the park office. The Interpretive Naturalist that works for the park gave us a little history about maple syrup. Apparently, an Iroquois Indian chief stumbled across the sap when he swung his axe into a sugar maple tree. When he pulled his axe out, he noticed the liquid dripping from the tree. The Native American Indians began curing meat and cooking with the sap. They also made maple rock candy to lengthen the shelf life.
After the history lesson, we drove a short distance to a gated driveway in the park. There were several trees in close proximity, called a sugar bush, that had buckets attached to spiles, or spouts, collecting the sap.
The first mission for the group was to find a maple tree. Since it was a little more difficult to find a maple tree without leaves, the Naturalist instructed the group to look for three things.
First, look for trees with long, rough bark. Then, look for new branches that are growing opposite each other, making a t-shape off of the larger branch. And last, check the dead leaves surrounding the tree and determine if the leaves are maple leaves.
Once a tree is selected, it’s important to make sure the tree is large enough to collect sap. The tree needs to be about 10″ in diameter. The tree our group found was the perfect size, so we put a spile, or spout, into the tree.
First a hole was drilled into the tree with a 7/16″ drill bit. The hole was dug at an angle so the sap would drain into the bucket.
After the hole was drilled, the spile was added, and the bucket was hung on the spile.
After collecting sap, the sap was put into a large, metal container for boiling. The boiling process takes about 4 hours.
Since the process takes a while, we obviously didn’t taste the syrup from the tree that we tapped. But, the Naturalist did have a small container of syrup made from another batch.
Now for the best part, right? Tasting.
The Naturalist passed around small paper cups and a little shot of syrup. Well, even though I have been wanting to learn about the process, I hate the taste of maple syrup. I always have. I put blueberry syrup on my pancakes. Nevertheless, I did try the syrup because I thought it would make a difference since it was fresh. Nope. I didn’t like it one bit. I gave the rest to my husband.
Even though I didn’t like the taste of the syrup, the whole process is fascinating, and now I understand why it’s so expensive! There is only a three week time period right before spring when the sap can be collected, and, the process takes a while.
sugar maple sap
boils into dark sweet syrup
warm, springtime sun
Do you like maple syrup? Do you prefer the real maple syrup or does Aunt Jemima work for you?