Maple season in New England

Cultural Insights — By on May 3, 2007 at 7:59 pm

It’s maple sap season in New England, and NPR recently ran an interesting Kitchen Window story about the traditional process of tapping trees and producing maple syrup.

It’s a chilly March Monday at the beginning of Massachusetts Maple Month. And even though Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, Mass., is closed, Roger Backman is hard at work tapping trees, bringing sap up to the kitchen, boiling it down and bottling it – a process known as maple sugaring…Since it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, he will collect and boil quite a few buckets in the next month or so. Maple sap runs when nighttime temperatures hover in the 20s and daytime temperatures don’t dip below the 40s. In New England, this happens between late February and mid-April.

…small-scale producers such as Backman still do it the old-fashioned way, with a hand-held drill, metal buckets and spiles, or spigots, hammered into the holes. In the latter case, sap drips out slowly but steadily (although if the temperature drops too low, sap will stop flowing until it warms up again), filling up about one-third of a bucket, or a half-gallon, in a day. Maple sugaring won’t be rushed.

Maple syrup comes in a variety of grades: Grade A light amber, Grade A medium amber, Grade A dark amber and Grade B. The A grades go from lighter and milder to darker and more robust, whereas Grade B, often referred to as cooking syrup, is usually considered too strong to be eaten plain. Producers have no control over which kind of syrup they’ll get. The same trees can give off different grades from year to year, depending on the weather.

Although maple syrup can be produced anywhere you find maple trees and the right weather conditions, it is mainly a product of New England and eastern Canada.

Wikipedia also has an informative article about the production of maple syrup.

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