We took a little trip to Deep River County Park, yesterday, with our homeschool group. To learn about maple tapping! My family has been waiting a VERY LONG TIME for this field trip! I'm talking years.... (well, for me, anyway!) Over the past several springs, we've either missed the tapping-season altogether, or I've had a small baby and didn't want to venture out into the cold. BUT. Homemade maple syrup has always been right at the top of my list of things I'd love to try to do, someday. And yesterday was the day, we finally got to learn ALL about it. :)
Did you know how simple it is to do this? I couldn't believe it. Time consuming, yes. But a very uncomplicated process. Simple enough for even the littlest ones in our group to help out.
We could not have asked for nicer weather, either! Warm sunshine, warm breeze....it even smelled like spring.
The tour guides were so friendly. And patient, too, since all of us inquisitive homeschooling Mama's were busy asking them a LOT of questions!
Here's what we learned. First, you need some buckets to collect your sap. The metal ones are fairly inexpensive, although our guide said any container could work, if it will stay put on the tree.
Then our guide showed us how to drill the hole, hang the bucket, and put in the spile (the little spout). Almost immediately, there was sap dripping into the bucket! The main thing is that you have to be sure your tree is mature enough to handle the tapping, or else you might kill a young tree.
Did you know it's possible that as few as one or two trees could produce enough sap in one season to make a good jar or two of syrup??
I think this calls for a little nature-walk around our yard to measure our trees!
A very quick google search led me to this website which has lots more information. :)
During the second half of our trip, we visited with some historical interpreters who were representing the French Voyageurs that were in our area during the Colonial period. They showed us how to boil down the sap using kettles over a fire. It smelled so good! Their sap was almost of syrup-consistency, but to stay true to historical practice, they continued to boil it away until all the moisture was gone - making maple sugar! Yum. :)
And oh, my goodness. Those kettles. There were some beautiful, handmade wooden spoons and ladles, too. And birch baskets. *swoon* Apparently, the Voyageurs preferred copper kettles over iron, since they are lighter to travel with, and they nest together very nicely.
They did a wonderful job teaching us all about the time period....and about the many wonderful things you can do with maple syrup! You can tell these guys love what they do. Sure looks like FUN to me!
A Few French Voyageur Maple Syrup Recipe Suggestions:
Wild Rice drizzled with syrup & topped with blueberries (for a sweet dish) or meat (for sweet/savory)
Venison (or other game meat) cooked in a slow-cooker with syrup, to tenderize & give a "wonderful flavor" to the meat
Stir a teaspoon or two (or three...) into a glass of milk for a sweet treat
Stir some into a cold glass of water for old-fashioned "maple-ade"
There was also an old grist-mill on the river in the park...and a saw mill. I would love to come back another day to spend more time checking out these features, too.
But as much as we all loved the tapping, and the tasting of the syrup. And especially the history demonstrations. I have to admit. I think the highlight of the trip may just have been... the giftshop! I tried to take a few pictures, but the light was too dim inside for any to turn out.
Let me just say, there was something wonderful in there for everyone! Lots of maple syrup, of course - along with maple sugar, jelly, and candy. Teacups and other tea accessories. Old-fashioned and non-electric kitchen doodads. Vintage-looking tins and cans. Beautiful carved walking sticks that General was pretty impressed with! Lots of toys and trinkets and handmade jewelry. And books, oh the wonderful books!
I was a good Mama and didn't buy anything (although there was an old-fashioned hand-cranked coffee mill that was certain it belonged in my kitchen). But General and Rose each brought a few dollars for souvenirs...and Rose found this sweet little doll:
Which, as you can see, has been keeping her very busy!
Looks like today is going to be another warm, beautiful day! We're making the most of this weather & we'll be spending the day outside. Our feeders need to be filled....my little kitchen garden needs to be de-rocked (again!).....I'm hoping to maybe even plant some garlic there, we'll see! And of course, General will be in charge of figuring out the diameter of our maple trees. :)
Time to go open some windows!
Wishing you all a joyful Wednesday!