MANITOBA MAPLE SYRUP

Maple Syrup is one of the oldest agriculture commodities in Canada. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which cannot be commonly grown on the prairies, is the species used for maple syrup production in Eastern Canada and Northern USA.

But, maple syrup is not limited to sugar maples. Manitoba maple (Acer negundo), which is also known as box elder, produces sap which can be boiled down to make an excellent tasting syrup. Manitoba maples are commonly found along riverbeds, in native woodlots, shelterbelts around farmyards and in communities as ornamental shade trees.

Manitoba maple trees should be at least 8 inches in diameter before they are tapped. Trees should be tapped in late February to early March to ensure the first flow of sap is collected.

To tap a tree, select a spot, at chest height, on the trunk in an area which contains sound wood that is void of knotholes or dead branches. Drill a 7/16 inch hole approximately 2 inches deep into the wood, slanting slightly upward to facilitate the flow of sap.

A tap (referred to as a spout, spile or spigot) is then inserted and tapped lightly into the predrilled hole. A bucket is then attached to the spout to collect the sap flow. Buckets should be covered to keep out debris. We use 2 gallon ice cream pails.

The sap flow from maple trees occurs on warm day following nights when the temperature drops below freezing. Sap flow does not occur every day and it can occur for as short a time as a few days or last up to 3 weeks or longer.

The sap should be collected and boiled down as soon as possible. If the sap is allowed to become too warm before boiling, a dark, off-flavored syrup will result. Sap collection should be discontinued when the buds on the tree start to swell. Once the tree starts to leaf out the sap acquires an off flavor known as a "buddy" flavor.

The process of making maple syrup is essentially one of evaporating most of the water out of the sap leaving behind the sugars and maple flavor. The amount of sap required to produce one gallon of syrup depends on the sugar concentration. It usually takes 43 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of finished syrup.Trevor & Grandma watching the brew

Sap becomes syrup when the sugar concentration reaches 66 percent. It takes a full day to complete the process of boiling the sap to make syrup. Boiling should be done outside or in a well ventilated area to allow large amount of steam to escape. We do ours outside in an old 25 gallon Feed Cooker and do the finishing off on the burner of our BBQ or in a deepfryer. We find it is easier to control the temperature doing it this way in the final stages when temperature is important. Once it reaches 219 degrees it is ready to put into sterilized bottles.

The average Manitoba maple will yield 15-20 gallons of sap in one season which amount to between 1/3 and 1/2 gallon of finished syrup per tree. Ultimately, syrup yields depend on the environmental conditions during the season.

As you can see, the process is not difficult, it is just very time consuming. I guess this would account for maple syrup being a bit pricey....but it is oh, so good!  We enjoy being able to share ours with friends and family.

 

Spring arrives with trees still bare,
The farmers work with special care
To tap the sweet natural fare,
It's maple syrup time.

The days are warm, the nights are cool,
The snow melts into puddles and pools,
The farmers prepare their tapping tools,
It's maple syrup time.

The Native People's long ago
Discovered the sap that dripped and flowed,
They cooked it down--the process was slow,
In maple syrup time.

Tradition calls for buckets and spiles
And lots of wood split into piles,
Lots of work but lots of smiles,
In maple syrup time.

The pipeline is a current way
To bring in the sap that drips each day,
Gravity helps sap make its way,
In maple syrup time.

With forty parts of sap to start 
The boiling is a major part,
The steam boils off leaving one small part,
It's maple syrup time.

With planning, work and boiling done
The tastiest part has just begun.
There's lots of maple recipe fun,
From maple syrup time.

The next time that you taste this treat
Think of the amazing feat.
Sap from trees into syrup to eat!
It's maple syrup time.

Elaine McDougall, 1996



      


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