Well, it is one of he first sings of spring here at our house, when everyone starts watching the temperatures to see if it goes above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. When the snow starts to melt a little and we start seeing more daylight. This is the beginning of Maple Syrup Season. This year we started on March 1 by tapping a few trees and then we finished up on the morning of March 2.
Tapping trees is a simple process that actually come from the Native Americans, but for my family it comes from my Paw. As a kid, we would go to Paw's and help bring in sap and help tap the trees. We never got to cook down our own sap until all of us became adults. Mom did get a chance to learn from Paw, but we have learned from Mom and from the things that we can remember. Anyhow, we use the plastic tubing and plastic taps. We take a drill and drill bit and drill a hole into the southern side of a maple tree, about 2" deep. You then put the tap in place and use a hammer to "tap" it into place. The tubing is then put into a bucket or jug to catch the sap. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. But we collect the sap in buckets each day and then I cook it down.
Cooking down is fairly simple process until you get to the end. To start we put the strained sap into large kettles and put it on the stove to evaporate the water content of the sap. This involves opening the windows in the house as it gets very humid in the house. People who make sap for more than a hobby , like us, usually have a "Sugar Shack" where they will cook down their syrup because of the humidity. but we do it in our kitchen with lots of open windows. As it cooks it goes through several different stages. We learned to "Read the Bubbles" which is a very non-scientific way of making syrup. But as you watch the syrup, it is done when it starts to foam up like the reaction of baking soda and vinegar. The syrup will foam up and then it is jarred. We don't sell our syrup, we use it for gifts and for our own use, but it is definitely better than the artificial stuff that you get at the store.
When I get a chance and my computer back, I will try to post a few pictures of our syrup making. Maple Syrup is a large industry in the states of Vermont, Wisconsin, Michigan but there are producers in most of the New England States.
For videos of maple syrup production and different techniques, go to www.youtube.com and search maple syrup production. There are a lot of videos showing different ways to make Maple Syrup. But now you know how we make our syrup!