The earliest settlers called it “Indian molasses” or “Indian sugar”, the Algonquins called it “Sinzibuckwud” (drawn from wood) and the Ojibways called it “Ninautik” (our own tree). They preferred to use the rock maple or Sheesheegummawis (sap flows fast) for sap collection. Basswood trees were excavated in order to make troughs to collect the sap. This was heated by throwing hot rocks into the sap to cause it to boil, thereby reducing it to sugar. This method offers evidence that sugar making was an established custom before the first settlers appeared in Canada.
Getting rid of the water in the sap is still the main purpose today, and although the technique is different, the basic idea remains the same. Boring holes in the trees with augers, and by using spiles and tin buckets instead of wooden buckets were the first improvements the Canadian pioneers introduced.
Boiling the sap in iron kettles speeded up the process. Later, flat bottomed pans were used to “finish” the syrup. By the early 1900s, the flue type evaporator came into use, which is still used today. The deep flues in the bottom of the pan allow flames to make a larger area of contact, which makes the sap boil sooner.
Maple Tree Facts:
• A gallon of pure Maple syrup weighs 11 pounds.
• Sap flowing in high volumes is called a “run.”
• As a tree increases in diameter, more taps can be added: up to a maximum of four.
• 30-50 gallons of sap are evaporated to make one gallon of syrup.
• The season may last 4-6 weeks, but sap flow is heaviest for 10-20 days.
• The sugar content of sap averages 2.5%, of syrup 66.5%.
• Each tap yields an average of 10 gallons of sap per season, that yields about one quart of syrup.
• Maple syrup is boiled even further to produce Maple cream, sugar and candy.
• Warm sunny days (above 40 degrees F) and frosty nights are ideal for sap flow.
• Tapping does no permanent damage to the tree and only about 10% of the sap is collected each year.
• A maple tree is usually at least 45 years old and 12 inches in diameter before it is tapped.
• The harvest season ends with the arrival of warm spring nights and early bud development in the trees.
• It takes one gallon of syrup to produce eight pounds of candy or sugar