It's that magical time of year when the maple sap flows!
I grew up helping to tap trees, collecting sap after school and watching the sap boil. I confess that I didn't always enjoy making maple syrup. None of my friends had to walk around in the snow after school, dumping buckets of sap into a collection tank. None of my friends had to help split wood (my job was to pick up the pieces and stack them in a big bin) to keep the fire going and the sap boiling. But now I realize how lucky I was to have had this experience. I cracked up when a friend told me about her weekend trip to a Vermont sugar house, where she paid to have the same experiences I remember as work.
I now value sugaring season as a part of my heritage and even joined my family last year as they tapped trees, when I was nine months pregnant. I wasn't much help then, but I love that I'll be able to tell my son Joshua that he's made maple syrup since before he was born.
Some interesting facts about maple syrup:
- It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
- Sap only runs for a few weeks each year, when the weather cooperates.
- Sugar maple trees can be tapped year after year. Some have been tapped for hundreds of years!
- Pure maple syrup is just boiled down sap; no additives or preservatives are needed. You can boil syrup further to make maple cream and maple candy.
- Maple syrup is graded by color: light amber, medium amber and dark amber. The light and medium amber syrups are great on pancakes or waffles, and dark amber gives a rich maple flavor when used for baking.
- Demand for maple syrup is on the rise among New England locavores. Every farming family I know sold out last year!
- Maple syrup stores well. Go ahead and buy in bulk, storing closed containers at room temperature and open containers in the fridge.
- Try substituting maple syrup for sugar or honey in your recipes, or adding a tablespoon or two for flavor.