Making Maple Syrup at Caumsett State Park

Posted on January 15, 2012

Visited this park for the first time today, not to go walking, but for a community education event about Maple Syrup. I had hoped to go walking before the event, but it was way too cold and windy out — the high was only 26F!

So I went straight to the restored barn where the naturalist was giving the discussion. Most people had cancelled and so there were only four of us attending. Still, we were given the same program as if all 20-something folks had come. It was quite interesting.

We learned we could actually make syrup from our own maple trees. The basic procedure is quite simple: you find the tree, you make a small hole in the side, and you insert a kind of tube — we made one during the tutorial of wood, but you can buy one of plastic or metal, it is no bigger than 1/4 inch wide, and maybe 3 – 4 inches long. And you won’t harm the tree, as long as follow some straighforward guidelines. You need to make the hole in a different place each year, and and only one hole per tree — and the tree needs to be at least as wide as the size of your head before you can tap it. So, you kind of hammer this tube into the hole, then you hang a bucket or a bottle there so that the end of the tube goes into the bucket/bottle, and you wait.

You need to check it once a week or so (depending on the size of your bucket/bottle), and once there is a thawing, the sap will come out into the bucket. Technically what happens is that when it begins to freeze the tree pushes its sap down into the roots, then when it defrosts the sap flows back up into the tree (it is only during this process that you can extract the sap because it is actually “flowing” thru the tree as it goes from roots back to branches. The period that gives sap is January and February when there is a cycle of freezing and defrosting, it ends some time in March.

The sap actually looks (and tastes) like water. It is mostly water in fact (98% water and 2% sugar). To get syrup you need to process the sap. This is where it gets more complicated. You need to collect the sap, put it in a pot and simmer it for hours (around 3+ hours) until the water has evaporated and you are left with syrup. You must be careful not to let it cook too long or it will burn. And don’t actually let it boil.

One gallon of sap will reduce down to just enough syrup for a serving of pancakes, so you need to collect a fair amount of sap to make a bottle of syrup!

RESOURCES: Caumsett Park Trail Guide | Caumsett State Park information | Caumsett Foundation

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