Updated: Jan 16
If honey is the nectar of the gods, maple syrup is the nectar of the everyday person. It’s long been a rural staple that was cheaper to produce than to purchase sugar. Early entrepreneurs saw this inexpensive resource as a great way to supplement their income or to create a business all on its own.
The act of “sugaring” was taught to European settlers by the Native Americans in the Northeast part of North America. We don’t know how long people have been cooking down maple sap to make the delicious syrup but we know it’s been for hundreds of years.
My maple syrup producing addiction (and tasting addiction) started the year Maria and I purchased our farm. We are fortunate to have a lot of mature maple trees on our property. It turns out that Maria’s father has produced maple syrup for almost his entire life. Maria remembers growing up with her dad smelling of sweetness when he would come in from a day working with the sap.
Many people believe that maple syrup is produced in the fall but it’s actually in early spring. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it occurs just as winter is breaking. Spring is around the corner and new life is about to burst onto the scene. I spend the time walking in the woods, often when there is still snow on the ground. The creek is usually running swiftly as the snow melt has added to its volume. It’s extremely peaceful.
A good rule of thumb for sap days is when temps get into the 40 degrees range and nights go below freezing. The warming sends sap up the tree and the freezing sends it back down to the roots. When we are harvesting the sap, we are catching it on its way up the tree.
Producing maple syrup in small batches like I do is a true labor of love. It takes 40 gallons, yes 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of delicious maple syrup. I cook mine down entirely over a wood fire outside.
So come sometime in February or March as the days start reaching 40 degrees, don’t be looking for me to be answering emails. I’ll be on a digital detox, in the woods, grounding myself with nature, smelling the spring air, listening to the creek flow and thanking the Earth and Maple trees for all their bounty!
If you would like to learn more about producing maple syrup in person, I will be hosting some Spring folk classes on our Farm. Go to: thevintagechicken.com to find out more.