In my neck of the woods, February thru April is maple syrup time. During these months, the sap will start to flow only with the perfect mix of temperatures. Somewhere between the icy grip of winter and the warm breezes of early spring.
A hundred years ago, the woods would be dotted with wooden or tin sap buckets hanging from the sugar maples.
Sap collection was a long and tedious chore. Usually, a team of horses pulled a large wooden barrel on a trailer, into which the sap buckets would be emptied everyday.
That collection method gave way to the more modern way of collecting sap – miles of plastic tubing that weaves its way from sugar maple to sugar maple.
At this small sugarbush farm (a forest that is primarily sugar maple trees), over 20 miles of tubing stay up all year long, tapping approximately 3,500 trees. However, only during February, March and April, does the sap run. Each healthy sugar maple may have between one and three taps, with each tap producing about 15 to 20 gallons of sap per season.
With the help of a vacuum pump, the sap finds it’s way to the collection tank. From here, it’s sent to the sugarhouse where it’s boiled, until the water from the sap evaporates, resulting in syrup. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup!
Different maple syrup colors or “grades” are the result of the time of the sap harvest. Sap drawn early in the season usually results in a syrup that is lighter in color and flavor. The syrup color will deepen and the flavor will get stronger as the sap season progresses.
So next time you pour that sweet stuff over your stack of pancakes, give a silent thanks to the maple syrup producers. ‘Cause pancakes without syrup is, well… unthinkable.