Maple Syrup in March

Today we took a long drive out to the country to learn about how to make maple syrup with my sisters, their kids, and our dad. It was a crisp spring day – cool, but the smell of life floated in the air. The soil is softening and the buds are bursting and the birds won’t stop chirping. We survived another winter.

I felt a little nervous about bringing our four noisy kids to an hour long lesson, but they were captivated. There is something rather enchanting about the wonder of the woods: sticks become guns or canes, little cousins need a hand to hold, crunchy leaves plead to be stomped upon. Nature keeps us busy!

Some interesting maple syrup facts we learned today:

1. Due to the temperature range, March is the only time of the year when the sap from maple trees can be harvested.

2. The process of collecting maple sap and turning it into maple syrup was pioneered by the Potawatomi tribe. We have evidence that they were doing this as far back as 1605. It became an important commodity for the tribe, and they traded it for furs and foods.

3. In theory, sap from any tree could be harvested and turned into syrup. But it would be pretty gross!

4. Clear sap is boiled at 219 degrees until is reaches the rich brown color and sticky consistency we know and love. Forty gallons of sap are boiled to make one gallon of maple syrup. Quite a lot of work for a little bit of goodness!

We are quite fortunate to pick up jugs of lovely Michigan maple syrup from our co-op. At just $50 a gallon, I happen to think it is the deal of the century! I know that is considerably more expensive than the Aunt Jemima fake syrup, but one look at the ingredient list on artificial table syrup (Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Cellulose Gum, Caramel Color, Salt, Sodium Benzoate And Sorbic Acid, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Sodium Hexametaphosphate) and I know paying more for the real stuff is money well spent.

At the end of the lesson we were treated to samples of maple syrup. Ben went back for seconds and thirds. Little sweetie!

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