Vermont and a telescope making conference, Stellafane, used to draw me to the land of black and white cows, Ben and Jerry’s, Sugar Maples, and maple syrup. I went up there for Stellafane for nearly 20 years straight. It was an education. An education in telescope making and astronomy in general, an education in country living, an education in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and an education in maple syrup. Before those trips to Vermont I was quite happy to buy any old brand of pancake syrup, no care that it was mainly high fructose corn syrup. Now I know better. Only Vermont maple syrup gets set on my breakfast table or poured onto my ice cream!
Maple syrup is made from the sap of the Sugar Maple, and also Red Maple and Black Maple trees. The trees in northern latitudes or higher elevations such as here in Virginia, store starch in their trunks before the winter months turn the temperatures cold. In the spring, as the weather warms just a bit, the starch is converted to sugar. The sap is collected by boring a hole into the trunk of the tree and the sap will seep out, into a galvanized bucket or in more modern times into a system of plastic tubes that are connected to one another throughout the maple syrup production farm or “sugarbush.”
Boil, Boil, Boil
The sap that is collected is boiled down from between 5 and 13 gallons until 1/4 gallon is left. This takes place in a “sugar house.” The trees are usually tapped starting at between 30 and 40 years of age and an average tree will produce about 10 gallons of sap per season at about 3 gallons a day. These maples are sometimes tapped until they reach over 100 years of age.
In comparing calories, maple syrup and sugar come out about equal, but maple syrup is a source of manganese (13 grams contains .44 milligrams) and also contains zinc (13 grams contain .55 milligrams). It beats out honey with 15 times more calcium and has 1/10 the amount of salt. Hmmm, I think I want pancakes for breakfast!