Maple syrup is a staple in our house. We eat it on pancakes (like these delish Pumpkin Chocolate Chip ones) and use it to glaze veggies and meats. And it always has to be the real thing. No imitations, or else I just won’t eat it.
The kids know that we only use real maple syrup. Why? Because in a time not that long ago, Shawn didn’t. There was maple syrup and “Daddy’s syrup,” and the kids quickly learned the difference: maple syrup comes from trees … Daddy’s comes from a factory.
But maybe a year ago, Shawn gave up his syrup in favor of the real deal. I can’t remember when it happened, but I’m glad it did. Now, we only have maple syrup.
About a month ago, Will started asking questions about maple syrup. Where does it come from? How is it made? Who makes it? So, I figured it was time to head off to a maple syrup fest so he could see for himself how maple sap becomes maple syrup.
Years ago, I covered the opening of maple syrup season for a newspaper, checking out a family farm and covering a super informative festival. It was awesome, so I knew a fest would be perfect for this. So, I did a quick Google search and found one not too far away.
We ended up heading to the Open House Maple Festival at Sullivan Farm in New Milford, which is run by the New Milford Youth Agency. Guides showed us everything about the process, even letting us sample Grade A and Grade B syrup.
We saw how trees are traditionally tapped, and more modern taps like the one above. The maple sap drips from the tree, down the tap and into the bucket. These days, most trees are tapped using a tubing system instead of individual buckets like this. New taps need to be make each spring.
And we saw a basic history of how maple syrup makers boiled the sap into the sweet, delightful syrup. Originally, it was done in big hollowed out logs and heated with hot stones, which took awhile, as you can imagine. Then came this bucket method (see photo above), where a heavy bucket of sap was placed over an open flame and boiled down. Eventually, the boiling was done in a special metal unit that allows the fire to reach a wider section of the sap. Today’s methods are similar to that, though on a larger scale. Sadly, I failed to take photos in the sugar house.
Oh, and one more interesting fact: Maple sap has 2 percent sugar. It’s boiled down until it has a 67 percent concentration of sugar.
What cool food-related outings have you taken lately?
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.