Spring’s cold nights and warm days have been naturally pumping the sap up the still dormant maple trees here in Ontario. Some people (including myself and my in-laws last weekend) are busy tapping trees and boiling sap to make delicious, sweet, healthy maple syrup!
It was my first time assisting with this family tradition and I can see why it stuck. It was fun working as a team and being in nature with all the fresh air and the sweet aroma of boiling sap.
I found it incredibly humbling, too. I was awed by the amazing, sweet gift from Nature, human ingenuity for the whole maple syrup making process and, of course, the hard work. Let’s just say I really appreciated the dark amber, grade A, homemade, organic maple syrup on my french toast the next morning!
How to Make (Lynch’s) Maple Syrup
While the trees, process and tools may vary, here’s how we made maple syrup at the Lynch’s:
- In early March, Dad strung up a series of tubes around trees that ran down hill.
- We tapped approximately 60 red maple trees by drilling holes on the North East side of each one and fitting the holes with the taps attached to the tubes.
- At the bottom of the hill, the tubes came together and collected the sap in 45 gallon containers.
- Dad rigged up a pulley system that held a gigantic cast iron pot over an
- On Friday afternoon we lit the fire, filled the pot and started boiling sap.
- For about 30 hours, we continuously fed the fire and topped up the boiling sap with fresh sap.
- We were having so much fun by the fire near the end, we boiled the sap a bit too much (it was super dark and thick, almost like a taffy).
- Dad diluted it by adding 2 liters of fresh sap and took the pot off the fire.
- After emptying the pot into a bucket, we moved the operation in doors (well, the garage) to “finish it off”.
- We strained the liquid through cloth filters to catch any big debris and poured the condensed sap into a stainless steel pan.
- Heating the pan with propane helps control the heat for this last part so it won’t burn or thicken too much.
- We boiled it for about another hour, consistently checking it with a hydrometer (measures water content).
In the end, we boiled 135 gallons (511 liters) of sap to make 11 liters of delicious and nutritious maple syrup.
It was much darker than usual because we boiled it too long in the cast iron pot. We were lucky because if it had burned, it would have been 30 hours wasted! Instead, our mistake taught us not only how to make dark maple syrup, but how much more maply tasting it is compared to light and medium!
- Maple syrup is considered one of the wonders of the world!
- Natives used maple syrup as food and medicine. They believed it had healing abilities and cleansed the body after the winter. (source: The Ottawa Citizen)
- They collected the sap through a wood chip stuck into a slanted gash in the tree. The sap dripped through the gash, flowed down the chip and dripped into a birchbark bucket. The syrup was made by boiling the sap in a hollowed-out basswood log with hot stones thrown in.
- Maple syrup is made mainly from maple sugar trees: Sugar Maple, Black Maple, Red Maple and Silver Maple. They are found in Eastern Canada and Northeastern U.S.
- Birch trees can be tapped for a more bitter birch syrup.
- Sap from the tree originally has a one-digit percentage of sugar. Maple syrup is made by condensing it to approximately 60% sugar.
- Maple syrup has the same calcium content as whole milk but no fat and only two-thirds as many calories as corn syrup. (source: MapleSugarRecipe.com)
- It has antioxidant properties comparable to broccoli!
- You can store maple syrup up to 6 months in the fridge and up to 2 years in the freezer.
Maple Syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc. It’s an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster; not to mention it’s heart and prostate healthy!
Other Useful Links
Are you as enamoured with maple syrup as I am? Celebrate it with others and check out the maple festivals in Ontario.