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Midday Matinee – Maple Syrup

March 19, 2012

Midday Matinee

Midday Matinee – Maple Syrup

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

I love maple syrup. We’ll start with the fact that I am either a purist or a syrup snob. Real maple syrup just can’t be beat.

I cook with it and pour it on oatmeal and pancakes. Minnesota even has a non-profit Maple Syrup Producers Association. It is a cottage industry and family business for over a 100 businesses.

The Minnesota Depart of Natural Resources sponsors events where families can come and see the sap running and get an idea of what it takes to make the syrup that one buys at the coop or grocery store. This was a favorite spring time event when my kids were little. The MN DNR site has a list of places to visit and videos.

Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing. This cycle of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights needs to continue for several days, although nature occasionally has been known to provide a good run under less perfect conditions.
Sometimes sap flows as early as January or as late as May, but in Minnesota, sap usually runs from about March 15 to April 20.

That late winter, early spring weather that is so ideal and necessary for collecting the sap is a part of the seasonal cycle that we just skipped this year. We went from snow to 60 and 70 degree weather overnight.

Warm Weather Gums up Minnesota Maple Syrup Season is not a happy headline for the producers or the people like me who think that maple syrup should be a food group.

Some maple syrup facts from The Maple Syrup Producers Association:

It takes about 40 gallons of sap (what comes from the tree) to make one gallon of maple syrup.
Pure Maple syrup is only made in certain parts of North America – nowhere else in the world!
Nothing is added to the sap-only water is evaporated away – to make maple syrup.
A gallon of maple syrup weighs 11 pounds.
Once a tree is large enough to tap, it can be used year after year.
Each tap can yield 10-12 gallons of sap during a season (about one quart of finished syrup).

In a burst of selfishness and hoarding, I am going out to buy enough to tide me over until next spring. Could it be that climate change has hit the breakfast table? I hope this is just one weird year.

Reader Comments Welcome.

  • winterbanyan

    Considering that we had an article in Our Earth a while back (Losing the Maple Tree? ), and adding that to the terribly warm winter, definitely hoard some maple syrup. Maybe we’ll be lucky and it’ll be just one winter, but I fear there are many more of these winters in our future.

    Maple syrup is a wonderful food for which there is just no real substitute. 🙂 I can understand why you prefer the real thing, and the fact that I can no longer eat it doesn’t make me any less sympathetic.

    Thanks for all the detail about sugaring. I had a friend in middle school who took a week or two off every fall to help his family with sap collection, and he regaled us with tales of the hard work. Maple syrup is worth every penny we pay for it. It’s not easy to make at all.

  • NCrissieB

    I think the technical term for “syrup snob” is “connoisseurup.” 😉

    I hope this turns into one of those unexpected years that yields a good maple syrup run without ideal conditions. If not, I hope you’ll share some of your syrup stock with Chef….

    • addisnana

      “connoisseurup.” I am so stealing this word!

      Maples grow across the northern US and in Canada. I am hoping that someplace gets a good syrup run this year.

  • addisnana

    It is an unusual thing to stock up on, isn’t it? It is a complicated or at least time consuming process to make. The old timers do it with wood fires so add cutting and splitting a lot of firewood to the list. Also on the list are people to stir and tend the fires 24/7. Still, it is irreplaceable.

    • winterbanyan

      I’ve read that wood fires actually affect the flavor the syrup, which is why many stick with them rather than more convenient methods of heating.

      But after reading about the process, I’m amazed at what hard work it is.

    • Jim W

      Stock up! When I was a boy we bought it in 5 gallon cans. The farmers liked the money and we liked having a years supply.

  • This past weekend and this coming one are “Maple Syrup Weekend” here in NY State, with tours offered of the various maple farms, and explanations given of the process.

    You’re right, there’s nothing like maple syrup. My nephew gave me a coupel of pints that he made for Christmas, and believe me, it’s a terrific gift. 😀 The stuff they sell as “real maple-flavored pancake syrup” isn’t even a good imitation. Funny story: Several years back, I was touring through Vermont, and for some reason, stopped at a local McDonald’s for breakfast. On each table was a small pitcher of real maple syrup for the pancakes. Needless to say, I ordered the pancakes. 😆

    • addisnana

      It’s good to know this jump to summer hasn’t effected all the maple syrup makers. I am impressed that McDonald’s was serving real maple syrup. Good for them.

      • I think it’s the law in Vermont. 😆

        • addisnana

          I couldn’t find that law. I found laws defining different grades of maple syrup.

          Wht I did find was this link to a bunch of maple syrup recipes.