The husband’s family has a quaint little sugar shack in Ontario where the sap from approximately 300+ taps covering over 10 acres of land boils. Sadly though, maple syrup season only lasts about 10 days in this part of Canada and each year I’ve just been too busy with babies or, in last year’s case, spring temperatures have become too warm too quickly causing the sap not to run. Not this year. This year I cancelled all other plans as soon as word came in that “the sap is flowing,” loaded up my gang of pancake enthusiasts and headed north for a sweet family adventure.
As it turns out, this past Sunday was near perfect conditions for collecting sap. The night before had below freezing temperatures (about -5° C) causing the tree to push the sap into its roots, and about +5° C during the day, which has the tree pulling the sap up into its limbs. The tree knows that it has to keep the sap moving otherwise it will freeze causing the trunk to expand and crack. It is this natural up and down movement of sap that allows our taps to flow. Last year we had a warm front hit Ontario mid-March which caused the sap to travel up to the limbs and stay there. The tree shifted its energy on growing buds and we saw no sap. A sad, sad year for local maple syrup lovers.
There are two routes that my in-laws use to collect the sap from their maple trees:
1) Using spiles (taps) that drip the sap into a covered collection bucket
2) Running a series of tubes (a pipeline) connected to multiple tapped trees downhill into large barrels.
Whichever way the sap is collected from the trees, the goal is to fill this bad boy:
That is a ratio of 48:1 gallons of sap to syrup.
At this stage I needed to give the sap a curious taste. Not much to report back, it kind of just tastes like water with just the slightly hint of sweet.
The sap is brought to a rolling boil, removing the threat of bacteria, and removing most of the water to create a thick sweet syrup. I’m told that there is no set amount of time that sap needs to boil for, “no two batches are the same”. Many contributing factors, such as amount of water in that day’s run of sap and the amount of moisture in the air, determine just how long the sap needs to boil until it reaches the finishing stage.
Naturally sweet, locally collected and loaded with healthy antioxidants; real maple syrup is an excellent replacement for white sugar in many recipes and the featured star of some of this family’s favourite treats. Get your hands on some pure maple syrup this season and think outside the pancake platter. I’m certain you will be singing its praises as well. One tip: add bacon.Add to favorites