Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Maple Sugaring

Last Saturday we went on a field trip, with our homeschooling group, to learn about a local family's maple-sugaring business. Their land is full of sugar maples and they've been making syrup, mostly as a hobby, for fifty years.

I knew next to nothing about this process, so I learned as much as the children. It is all very dependent on the weather. The sap runs only when there are cold nights and mild days. The night before the field trip wasn't cold enough, so we didn't actually get to see the sap coming out of the trees.

We did see the sugar house and all the complicated equipment. We tasted plain sap and ate sap sugar candy. As they talked to us they were making syrup from sap they had previously collected.

The dear, sweet owner, in his seventies, was not too good at speaking to young children, so the process he detailed about turning 50 gallons of sap into one gallon of maple syrup was too complicated for our young boys. They were well-behaved, but I know they were wondering when the fun would begin. Children always have high expectations for field trips. Daniel thought the steamy sugar house was a bit scary, with its thick, indoor fog and wood-burning fire compartment. He expected it all to blow up any second. lol

The Smith family gave all of the children wonderful coloring books that illustrate the whole process in simpler, child-friendly terms. We'll keep reviewing, but even if my boys can't retell the whole sap to syrup story, I know they learned something very important - God provides for His people in amazing, delicious ways! :)

Turns out that even the bottles of syrup at the grocery store that say 100% pure maple syrup on the label, usually have no maple syrup in them at all. No wonder they're so cheap. We bought a pint of the Smith family's homemade syrup for $16.50. The price changes with the season. This year there's a lot of water in the ground, which affects the trees, so it took 50 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. It usually takes 43 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, and the syrup normally sells for $10.00 -$12.00/pint.

On the night of the field trip we had pancakes for supper, using our fresh maple syrup. Oh, my! Absolutely delicious! I don't think I've ever actually had pure maple syrup before. I would have remembered something that delicious!

Timothy, our taste-bud challenged, infuriating-at-the-table, but otherwise wonderful boy, would not taste the syrup and had the store-bought stuff instead, which I now presume is mostly sugar and food coloring. Won't be buying that anymore! Timmy won't know the difference next time, as I'll know better than to put the homemade-looking syrup jug on the table.

Maple Syrup Fun Facts

- Maple sap looks just like water and has a slightly sweet taste.

- The Maple season lasts about 4 to 6 weeks, but sap flow is heaviest for 10 to 20 days.

-Sap flowing fast is called a "run".

-A gallon of pure maple syrup weighs about 11 pounds.

-Maple sap flows best on still, sunny days, after a freezing night.

-Maple sap can run at the rate of up to 150 drops per minute.

-Pure maple syrup has no fat and no proteins and is a good source of 3 essential elements - calcium, iron and thiamine.

-As soon as the buds on the tree begin to open, the sap is on longer suitable for making syrup.

So, ya'll need to go out and get yourselves the real stuff! Go ahead and splurge! Make pancakes for supper...and lunch....AND breakfast. Of course, the fact that it has calcium, iron, and thiamine made me feel a whole lot better about dropping $16.50 on it.


Steph said...

In Lanark County, where I live, we are known as "the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario, Canada." And it IS marvellous stuff! It's called "liquid gold" by some. It is divine stuff!

Ashley said...

Wow - how fun! What a great experience for your whole family, and I now know of another activity I want to do with mine next year. Your post actually made me hungry for pancakes even though we only have the fake syrup in our fridge.

Evenspor said...

Sounds like fun. My brother lived in New Hampshire for a year, and he liked to go to the syrup factories (he was going to cooking school, so it was sort of related). He would occasionally send up bottles of the syrup. Sweet stuff!

Oh, and tag, you're it, Pam. Go to my Walk Beside Mr blog for details.