The past two winters have been a little difficult to predict. The bi-polar weather can cause quite a ruckus in nature. For instance, it might tease honey bees that spring-like weather alerts them to start making their way out of their warm hive…only for a sudden turn in the elements giving them a turn for the worse.
It also might tease plants to begin to sprout when it is far too early and a February frost, ice storm or heavy snow will kill the plant before it gets its chance to grow. One of our favorite things to do in the winter season is to tap a few maple trees on our property. We have had a difficult time determining WHEN to tap the trees because of the extreme weather. The warmer days in winter, when the trees can thaw creates the sugar season when the sap runs freely. But the colder days create an almost negligible sap flow.
Since we are not a large-scale maple syrup maker, we do it more as a hobby and education tool, we are very selective with our trees and collection methods. The hardest part is finding a good spot to drill the hole. The best location is to find clear, white sapwood that is free of any defects, rotten areas or previous tapholes. We try to drill the hole with a new, clean drill bit and we go straight in, with only a slight upward angle. We always review the shavings to ensure they are pure white without any brown or black markings to indicate we have found a good place to drill.
We then add a spout. We tap very gently to get the spout into the hole without causing any further damage (splitting the wood for instance). We then hang a covered bucket to keep bugs and debris from getting into the sap as it drips into the bucket. One of the most unique and fresh tastes is the slightly sweet hint of pure maple sap. Slightly sweet and clear as glass, the sap will then be taken to a local “sugar shack” to be distilled down to pure maple syrup. The sap is boiled in a shallow pan until most of the water in the sap has evaporated. It takes 40-45 gallons of sap to create just 1 gallon of maple syrup!
One common question is about the different colors and grades of maple syrup. Did you know that pure maple syrup is graded only by its color? The main different in the color relates mostly to when the syrup is made. As winter turns to spring, and the weather warms, the sap from the trees becomes darker in color, producing a darker color and a darker, more flavorful syrup. There are generally four maple syrup grades. From light to dark they are: Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B. It is important to understand that ALL maple syrup is produced by exactly the same process.
We also love that real maple syrup contains many vitamins and nutrients. ALL pure maple syrup contains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and iron. Traditionally, maple syrup is considered to be good for digestion and the circulatory system. It has fewer calories most other sweeteners and contains absolutely no fat.
Did you know that maples trees are not the only trees that have a sap that be turned into syrup? While very rare, Birch trees and Walnut trees can also be sapped and turned into syrup. A word of caution for Walnut Syrup…Walnut Trees are a nut tree and the syrup can cause allergic reactions for those with nut allergies. While not very prevalent, experts think that walnut syrup might gain more popularity in coming years.
Sweet, sticky and golden amber goodness.
The Outdoor Adventure Team at The Lodge at Woodloch