GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

March 6, 2013

It's time to make maple syrup

It’s a way of life, passed down through many generations in many families.

Maple sugar makers are dedicated to producing the highest quality maple syrup. They are proud people, proud of what they do and the products that start with the tapping of those maple trees. The same syrup that is on their tables for their families is what they make for you.

Yes, artificial syrups may cost less, but they are not really a deal — 100 percent pure maple syrup is natural with no added flavorings or sweeteners.

As it is said about life, with making maple syrup, timing is everything; mostly being left up to “Mother Nature.” Tapping (inserting taps into tree trunks) too early or too late can alter the quantity and quality of the finished product. “Sugaring off,” as it is known in New England, starts in late February and runs through early April, when the trees begin to bud. All New England states produce maple syrup, but Vermont leads in production as location is part of this timing equation — the farther north the “sugar bush,” as tapping areas are called, the later the season.

Each tap hole on the trees produces about 10 gallons of sap a season, and 40 gallons are needed to make one gallon of maple syrup.

The first liquid to come from the sugar maple tree is a thin, watery stream which drips into a bucket hanging from the tap, or you may now see plastic tubing that snakes from tree to tree and connects to a single gathering tank — modern progress at work. The collected liquid is then taken to the sugar house, where the water is boiled off the sap, producing clouds of steam. The sweet, thick syrup is the result of simple evaporation and condensation.

Most sugar houses are open to the public and are happy to give tours. Early spring is the best time to see the entire process and bring home a container of maple syrup as well as candies and other products they have.

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