The Sap is Running
The most exciting and short-lived season of the year has arrived - Sugaring Season. You can see tapped maple trees lining the back roads of Northern Ohio and collection of the sweet, sweet sap has begun.
We've gone old school here at EM. We like the look of the buckets, with their lids, hanging on the trees. Sure, there are plenty of more modern, less labor intensive methods of collecting sap. But they just don't have the charm of the simple sap bucket.
Plastic tubing and sap bags got nothin' on the plink, plink, plink sound of sap slowly dripping into a bucket. Sheer romance.
And while there is nothing particularly difficult about making maple syrup, it sure requires a lot of time. It starts with drilling a hole for the tap. Again, we went old school with a hand drill, but most people use an electric drill.
Then comes the easy part - a simple tapping of the spile into the hole.
After that, it's time to hang the buckets and slide on their lids.
According to Cornell’s Sugar Maple Research and Extension Program, “During warm periods when temperatures rise above freezing, pressure develops in the tree, causing the sap to flow out of the tree through a tap hole. When temperatures fall below freezing, suction develops, drawing water into the tree through the roots. This replenishes the sap in the tree, allowing it to flow again during the next warm period."
That's the cut and dried version of why sap flows. I'm not sure I really care about the "why" of it all. I care about the "how do we turn this into syrup for waffles" part of the equation.
That's where the time part comes into play. Sap season is short. There is a chemical change that takes place in the trees when they begin to set buds and that change leads to an off taste in the sap, signaling the end of sap season. A sap season lasts, on average, from two to four weeks.
So in that 2-4 week window, there is a lot of emptying of sap buckets, building of fires, boiling down of sap (approximately 40 gallons of sap needs to be boiled down for 1 gallon of syrup), and finally, finishing off the syrup and bottling it.
But just think of the reward - a bottle of fresh maple syrup for your pancakes or waffles. I'll gladly do the work.