Spring is taking it’s time reaching the Northland this year. As the snow drifts wander into April, it is at last, Maple Sugaring Time.
And, we’re the keepers of the Sap Map!
One of the truly delightful bits of returning to my home town is the way people eat in the Duluth area. People shop local, have milk men, purchase produce directly from local farmers and buy their fish from the area’s fisherman. It’s comforting to return home and find lifestyles and traditions still in place. That includes Maple Sugaring.
I remember watching a film strip in school about the Anishinabe collecting sap and creating treats for their children. Last week a local television station ran a similar piece on the Anishinabe and their traditional Maple Sugaring Harvest.
Maple Sugaring is a big deal here. MPR had a great piece on the joys of cold weather and it’s impact on the harvest.
The other day my kindergartener asked if we could make maple syrup. She gave me a recipe, including a tip to fix a burned batch. “Just add butter.” She said she learned about the process on an episode of Curious George.
It is energizing living in a community that clings to this traditional and sustainable practice. Truth be told, I have never tapped a tree or even tasted homemade maple syrup.
Then one morning we noticed the tell-tale buckets hanging from our neighbors beautiful maple trees just above their snow drifts. To our delight the owners need someone to keep an eye on their operation for a few days.
We were given a Sap Map of the yard and simple instructions. When the buckets are full dump them in the collection buckets. Eat or toss the ice. Re-hang the buckets.
The buckets collect the best sap on days when the temps rise above freezing after a night below 32 degrees. Sometimes we only see a small amount. Other times the buckets fill in just one day. So far, we are just seeing a little in the bottom of the bucket.
- The sap looks a bit like dirty water.
- Ice often forms in the buckets. The chunks are lightly sweetened water. Either toss the ice or eat it. The good stuff has a lower freezing point and will remain in liquid form.
- The sap looks like water but will behave like milk. Bacteria can grow and the sap can spoil if not processed quickly.
- Many believe that drinking maple sap is a way to energize the body after a long winter. ( Keeping an eye on the buckets is energizing too.)
- Maple sap can also be used to make coffee or tea, brew beer, and in just about any recipe calling for water.
In short, when life gives you a long cold winter… go sugaring.