Making maple syrup-nature's natural sweetner

Makeing your own maple syrup, a pure, natural sweetener loaded with minerals and antioxidents, is a simple operation. It is only possible where night-time temperatures fall below freezing, and daytime temperatures rise above, typically in the early springtime in the Northern states, but possible as far south as Tennessee. For those who live in a warmer part of the country, purchasing the syrup and using it on the table and to make many maple products is very satisfying.

Initially, you must identify maple trees. Even the sap from just one in the backyard can yield one half gallon of syrup. A tree should be at least twelve inches in diameter for one tap, or two taps can be placed if the tree is a foot and a half through at chest height. The equipment needed: A drill and bit, spouts, hammer, bucket with a cover, and a way to boil the sap.

When the weather warms up in the spring, drill a hole about chest high (just for convenience-your bucket won't get buried in snow, or be too high to reach), and gently tap in the spout. Hang your bucket, with cover, on the spout. Any container may be ued, if you are just getting started, such as a milk jug. Sap is perishable, so should be gathered and boiled each day, or kept cold until you can boil it.

Maple sap can be enjoyed straight from the tree as a drink. Most folks boil it down, making about one gallon of syrup for each forty gallons of sap. This can be done on the kitchen stove, or in the backyard over a fireplace. Small sugarmakers do buy arches and evaporators intended for use with fifty to one hundred tps. The sap is boiled until it "aprons" off a spoon held up, meaning it runs off in a sheet, or reaches a temperature of seven degrees above the point of boiling water on that day. It is helpful to ue a few drops of cream or oil in the boiling syrup as a "defoamer", so that the syrup does not boil over as readily.

The hot syrup should be filtered, as it contains nitre, or "sugar sand", which will give the syrup a cloudy appearance. Maple syrup needs no further processing when put into jars at 180 degrees, or it can be kept in the freezer. Syrup is enjoyed on the table in coffee and tea, on pancakes and waffles-the possibilities are endless. Substituting maple syrup in place of refined sugar in most recipes is a delicious and healthy alternative. Use 3/4 to 1 cup of maple syrup for each cup of white sugar, decreasing liquid by 3 tablespoons. In baked goods, add i teaspoon of baking soda.

Maple cream, a silky-smooth amber spread, is made by boiling the syrup to 234 degrees, cooling rapidly to room temperature, and beating. Maple butter is prepared by boiling one cup of syrup to 245 degrees, adding one stick of butter, cooling, and beating. We enjoy sugar on snow, by cooking pure syrup to 233 degrees, and drizzling on pans of snow, a fresh snowbank, or, if you live in the south, onto chipped ice. Many wonderful recipes for syrup are available.

I am a maple sugarmaker in Vermont. We have a family operation, tapping 6200 trees, and producing about 2500 gallons of syrup a year. We love to have visitors at our sugarhouse, and boil approximately form March 1 until April10, depending on the weather. We have a website,, and a facebook page where you can see what we're doing in the woods, sugarhouse, and kitchen. Stop by and visit!

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