Tapping maple syrup sap, the trips to the Maine wood lot made for not just next year’s fuel to heat your home.
The eighty acre Ludlow Maine timber stand in our family since the early 1900’s supplied way more than just firewood. The forested land not just a neat setting in the Maine outdoors for a picnic. Or to hunt for game, pick wild apples or to cast a line into the bordering fishing stream. The hardwood ridge section of woods in Aroostook County tapped yearly for maple syrup sap. Spread the word. March 21st and 22nd is Maple Syrup Weekend in Maine.
When someone says the words “maple syrup” do you think of a log cabin in Vermont or a large, smiling lady with bandanna for a lid on the store label?
I was exposed to real Maine maple syrup growing up in the farmhouse with my three older brothers. First adding real pads of butter to melt and pool, then ooze down the pancake stack. Followed quickly by real Maine made maple syrup drizzled ever so thick and slowly. Gravity pulling it down the sides after lathering it up on top of the hot fluffy flap jack stacks. When you live in rural Maine, you get connected to the land. Most of your time is spent outdoors not trapped inside four walls. You work up an appetite for real Maine maple syrup.
This Maine blog post is about making Maine maple syrup.
When Maine daytime temperatures climb above 32 degrees ( 0 Celsius) then drop to below freezing overnight, it’s time to get into gear. Maple trees wanting to bud prepare for spring and the best syrup sap happens early on in the season. (WARNING. The boiling down the sap should happen outside because the considerable steam inside a home makes for sticky air conditions during the evaporation process.Unless you enjoy scrubbing interior walls of where you live, head outdoors.)
Supposedly an early Native Canadian Indian chief from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia came home after a hard day of tramping the woods hunting discovered maple syrup in a left handed way.
Look out, duck, he flung his tomahawk into a maple tree for safe keeping. The next day, a bucket by the maple tree beneath the weapon gash parking place filled with clear liquid.
An early morning cook, the chief’s daughter put it in a pot thinking it was just water. Saved her a trip down to the stream as she began her day. She might have gotten a little distracted with her other duties that day talking, maybe over tired and dragging a bit. Maybe the boiling part of the legend lasted a tad longer than what you and I wait. When standing by the microwave listening for the bell ding for the whip up that needed heating up.
What was poured in her Dad’s cup to prepare for a strong medicinal tea a delightful red maple leaf surprise. By accident, the sap collected overnight from the Maple tree and boiled down a bit over an open fire became a popular sweetener by accident discovery. I am not sure whether my Dad ever heard that tale, but he and my mom loved making Maine made maple syrup. In particular, I remember one late winter / early spring trip to the woodlot off the end of the White Road in Ludlow Maine. No wood roads plowed and a blue 1966 Sno-Jet snowmobile our only means of transportation that day.
This trip to the Maine woodlot to prepare for maple syrup sap season, we brought food to cook over a small fire.
Anything cooked outdoors and enjoy in the Maine woods is special. And besides the hot dog lunch, we had a couple tasks ahead. Marking the maple trees that would be used for maple sap collection. The tall ones back home along the driveway to our Maine farmstead all nailed with sap taps. The giant rock maple summer shade trees contributed to the clear sugary sap supply. But the bulk of the early spring tree sap came from the more plentiful concentration of maple trees up in the Ludlow Maine woodlot.
Before climbing back on the 13 horsepower snow sled for the easier return trip on an established sled trail, my Dad and I hammered in the hooks for the wood lot sap pails. Our next trip would be to hang the actual collecting buckets after installing each sap spout. Many tap spouts have built in grooves to hold the bucket for sap collection.
Both my parents growing up enjoyed the same yearly pastime of collecting maple syrup sap.
Maple sap gathering is educational to the whole family. Learning about why sap happens, how it is a life force of the trees that bud and begin again each spring. Then to boil down to create the all natural sugary syrup to use in the household cooking took practice.
My mom was a Benn from the road on the hill with the same name in Hodgdon Maine. She knew how to handle her candy thermometer and was no stranger to work on a Maine dairy farm. Mom, Mary Louise was next to the youngest of eleven children. Her farm family’s sugar shack operation was most impressive. The sugar shack shed with the big vat and separate open wall wood shed evaporator area worked like a charm. The big fire combustion box underneath the syrup evaporator used to boil down the collected maple syrup sap located hidden in the maple tree grove wooded section to the northwest of her family home.
My Dad dreamed of building a cabin up in the Ludlow woodlot big enough to invite in locals to enjoy a sugar shack home made pancake breakfast.
Dad thought young kids should be taught the yearly tradition in early spring, late winter of maple syrup production. An ideal way to fill your lungs with fresh air and shake off the cobwebs of stuck inside winter living. The sugar shack not to make money but more for the shared experience. Mainers are connected to the land they own and enjoy. Passing on the same take care of this natural resource attitude to the next generation.
He researched the gravity collection lines needed to replace the cumbersome bucket brigade to round up the gallons of maple tree sap too.
With a forty to one boil down ratio of what you collect and end up with to create the valuable amber gold Maine maple syrup, a tremendous amount of sap is required. And besides the large raw sap volume to meet the demand once folks who try Maine maple syrup become addicted, there is a science to making the stuff. More at this Maine maple syrup producing link.
There are still tall stacks of rough sawn lumber from the same woodlot hidden away in a farm machine shed where I grew up in Maine. Stacked to dry and waiting, stuck in time. Milled for the
purpose of the large cabin complete with generous seating and the attached open side wall evaporator room. There were lots of irons in the fire and time to tend them all ran out with Dad’s passing in his early eighties. He was a dreamer with an active mind that worked overtime. Mom was the governor, the voice of reason and moderation lever. She is what grounded him back down to Earth for the many plans that did come about so well and those that just never got off the drawing board.
Maine Maple Syrup weekend is March 21st and 22nd this year.
Healthwise, how does maple syrup do when toe to toe up against Maine honey or blueberries? Our bodies need natural vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and what about this trio to supply them? Here’s the low down on the real McCoy pure not watered down with fillers on the three Maine agricultural products.
First, our blog post spotlight star, Maine maple syrup takes the cake walk.
Open the back stage curtain and escort in our first natural treat contestant. The cost for the real deal big jug of Maine maple syrup is expensive. But if you tackle the collect and boil down on your own, maple syrup production becomes a second nature tradition. The time to bottle real maple syrup can become a fun Maine family annual event. Reaching for your own home grown maple syrup stored up in the cupboard or down in the root cellar just improves the taste. Nothing in life that comes easy satisfies quite the same.
The maple tree sap boiled for too short a time means watery, weak, not so thick syrup happens. The under cooked 200 to 230 degree sap not left on to boil long enough also more prone to spoil. If over boiled, the sap turn syrup becomes crystallized in storage and you miss your mark for the just right consistency.
It’s not just maple syrup resting and waiting in the bottle from the pantry top shelf to tip up and pour when summoned.
Over ice cream, added to snow to make kids smile. That’s part of it too. Maple syrup candy, my aunt Helen could make delicious treats with the stuff unlike any store bought variety. A dash in your coffee, added to your cooking provides something memorable and very special. Most of us would make a batch of maple syrup at a time. Like we have a couple big feeds of fiddle heads or new potatoes and fresh peas.
The bigger maple syrup producers have large evaporator pans working round the clock.
With new sap coming in one end, the syrup being drawn off the other in a continuous process. Maple syrup making connects you to the Maine land. It gets you outside and causes you to be aware of your surroundings. To reflect on another year has passed and what did you learn to apply to the next one.Watch a maple syrup making video to become more familiar with the process involved making it by a visit to a sugar shack.
Practice makes perfect and follow the lead of an old timer works best in how to make maple syrup from scratch. Get your paraphernalia to collect, to boil down from spout taps to thermometers and filters together. Watch and learn and apply no matter how large or small your syrup making operation becomes. The maple trees you tap should be ten to twelve inches in diameter. I always thought the old driveway maples at the farm need the sap more than I do. The stress of aging, fighting off tree diseases, bugs, woodpeckers and loss of vigor always makes me believe it best to leave them be. Like a battle weary veteran, they’ve done their service and earned their right to not be tapped.
Find the locations to see a real live maple syrup operation in full swing in Maine.
Visit the open house during Maine Maple Syrup weekend and the producer closest to where you live in Vacationland. The most concentrated natural sugar comes from maple syrup tapped in the spring tree budding window of tree growth. Wait too long and your final product syrup will be bitter. Not a crowd pleaser although hoppy IPA local Maine beer micro brews appeal to many. Make it a blonde or pale ale for me please. No to stout barley pops varieties.
Experts claim nine health benefits from maple syrup used in cooking, as the sweetener in your daily coffee. Maine honey health nutritional facts spelled out to share and compare. Maine blueberries, it’s no secret about how they do a body good.
So the weekend every year in Maine to visit a maple syrup operation where it is open house is when again?
March 21st, 22nd is Maine maple syrup weekend. The worthwhile family outing is dubbed Maine Maple Sunday. More on the list of Maine maple syrup farm producers all mapped out and part of the sweet 2020 weekend. The 4th Sunday of March in Maine is Maine Maple Syrup Weekend!
Have you had locally made ploys that go so well with Maine maple syrup? The Maine French Acadian ploys made with buckwheat are not flipped on the griddle or flying pan. The batter “eyes” on top catch the melted butter and real Maine maple syrup when slid on a plate for all to enjoy. Maple syrup also used as a bath for corn fritters that we enjoyed growing up in Maine.