Hello, everyone! I apologize for the long wait but my crazy life decided to lock me in a closet called, “Homework,” and never let me out, until I promised to be good and finish my work. Just kidding.
So I’m back now for part two of our Maple Tapping facts. I titled this one, “The Old and New Tools) because that’s what our discussion will be today. I previously mentioned all about our Maple Trees, the ribbons we use and what the colors mean, the health check we do and more. If you have not read the first part, I encourage you to do so at, https://volunteersvoice.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/maple-syrup-tapping-family-time-sweetly-spent-part-1/
You don’t have to read part 1 to follow up with this, but if you’re into awesome facts and pounds of knowledge, then eat up the article!
So I’ll start this educational topic with a question. I can hear your groans! Was Maple Syrup collecting always done? If so, how did the process come to be? Well, I’m no historian but the farthest back we can track on Maple Syrup tapping and collecting can be in the 19th century. One of the earliest race to begin this sweet tradition was the Native Americans.
Tribes like the Ojibwa and Chippewa are often mentioned as tribes that found Maple Syrup and collected it. There is no exact fact as to where maple syrup tapping or sugar making began, but many tales exist. For instance, it is said that the Algonquin tribe recognized maple syrup as a strong source of energy and nutrition and often gave drinks to their warriors, believing that it would strengthen them before battle. Another creative tale is that Aboriginal people would celebrate the Sugar Moon, which was the first full moon of spring. One of their rituals was to do a Maple Dance and pray for a year of sweetness.
Stories like these truly fascinate me, even if we’re not sure which one’s are true or false. I guess that’s the fun part. If you’re interested in the folk tales of the Native Americans and sugar making, I strongly encourage you to research more. I, unfortunately, didn’t have the time to do much research but I have heard many interesting stories.
So we mentioned before that the Maple Tree holds the strongest and sweetest sugar content. However, it doesn’t taste sweet when we collect it from the trees. The consistency is like water and has no color to it. The sap tastes cold and bland but rather refreshing.
I find it amusing when we give the public a chance to taste the sap right from the tree, during our classes. The children go in there with eager fingers and take a lick, just to end up frowning. I sometimes feel like I can read their mind. “What?” They think, “This is nothing like the stuff on pancakes. What a rip-off!”
So, how does it go from bland, boring, water-like sap to delicious, rich, brown, thick, sweet, syrup? You have precisely three guesses, go!
You probably didn’t guess at all but just kept reading, right? I thought I’d catch you! Well, if a stove was any one of your guesses, you got it! Your prize is some well-earned pancakes! Sweetness has to start somewhere!
We collect the sap from our sugar bush in the preserve and bring it to the stove. And just for the record if any of you are taking that phrase literally, please don’t. We do not have a bush full of syrup or we would probably be a big attraction for Chicagoans! Maple Syrup comes from trees right? So the term sugar bush means, a whole area where Maple trees are grown.
Our brick stove was hand built by awesome volunteers. We use it for boiling the syrup. Yes, that right. Boiling. So you’re learning history, natural education, and culinary arts, lucky you!
We boil the syrup for 6-8 hours. It needs to be stirred constantly so the sugar content can rise. We have about two to three volunteers or staff, stirring the syrup all day during our Maple Syrup Festival. It is a long process and sometimes tiring, but well worth the work in the end.
It’s also pretty funny when we’re stirring because there’s so much smoke erupting from the stove. The wind may blow it in your face and sudden tears may spill. A few people were watching me stir at the Festival and started laughing saying, “Oh look, she’s crying!”
I jokingly said, “Yeah, I’m so happy you guys are here…it just brings tears to my eyes.” I’ll bet that’s one they won’t forget!
So that pretty much concludes this Maple Tapping part. Once again, if you have any questions or would like to share any information you know, please do so in the comment box. I will respond! Part 3 will be the finale. There I’ll talk about our Festival, the activities, and the real sweetness that comes from this work.
I also can’t help but feel blessed because I am keeping a tradition that is ancient, alive for others to see. Not many young teens my age get to do this, so I feel especially grateful!
Allow me to give a quick shout out to my friends, Liza, Sean, Bob, Julie, and Frank! Thanks guys for all you’ve taught me and for giving me skills I never thought I had!
God Bless you all!