Well it is that time of year again that the smell in the air has a strong hint of maple syrup. Our club president Jackie, and her son Dan were hard at work working their magic in the family Sugar House this week. Dan was happy to share his knowledge of how this process happens year after year and walk us through the entire process from start to finish. The 18th Annual Whitingham Maple Festival will be held April 2nd & 3d please click this link to learn more. http://www.whitingham-maplefest.us/
Maple syrup was the original natural sweetener. Native Peoples in North America were the first to recognize 100% pure maple syrup as a source of nutrition and energy. Since then, researchers have been documenting that maple syrup has a higher nutritional value than all other common sweeteners. In addition, researchers have found that pure maple syrup contains numerous phenolic compounds, commonly found in plants and in agricultural products such as blueberries, tea, red wine and flax-seed. Some of these compounds may benefit human health in significant ways.
To learn more about Maple Syrup in Vermont the following link will yield a lot of good information. http://vermontmaple.org/
A native Chief returning to his village after a hunting trip threw his tomahawk into a sugar maple tree trunk. The spring sun warmed the tree and sap ran down the bark from the cut the tomahawk had made and into a birch bark container left under the tree. Thinking the crystal clear sap was water, the Chief’s wife poured it in with some meat she was cooking. As the water boiled away, a sticky sweet glaze formed on the meat, adding a wonderfully sweet maple flavor to the meal.
Native Peoples continued to boil down the sap every spring using hollowed out logs into which the sap was poured and rocks heated in a fire were placed in to make the sap boil, thicken and harden into chunks of maple sugar. Early explorers recorded maple sugar serving as the only source of energy sustaining Native Peoples over the long hard winter months.
When settlers came with metal tools, they drilled small holes in the trees, whittled wooden spouts and replaced the wooden troughs used by Native Peoples with wooden buckets and covers. They made their maple sugar in large iron kettles suspended over a fire by wooden poles or tripods. Making maple sugar was common in Vermont, being some distance from any seaport where white sugar was imported.
As maple sugaring evolved, arches were built, containing the heat from roaring wood fires and holding large flat pans on top. Buildings to house these “boilers” was the next step. Sugarhouses today still resemble those early structures with the characteristic cupola on the roof allowing the sweet maple scented steam to billow forth.
To find out how Vermont sugarmakers make our maple syrup today click on “How We Make It.”