Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sweet, Sweet March! It's Maple Syrup Time!

One of my favorite quick changes in a Northern Michigan March is the rise in temperatures during the days that launch the maple syrup season, when maple sap runs through the sugar bush to strategically placed sugar shacks. In the very old days, native people cut a hole in the Sugar Maple. They attached a wood shaving on the bottom of the hole in order to direct the maple sap towards a bark container. Later, sap dribbled into covered metal buckets or pails. Today, most sugar shacks are equipped with sophisticated plastic tubing. The maple sap follows the tubing from tree to tree and ultimately into a storage tank. At the sugar shack, the sap is boiled down until it becomes maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a true treasure because the maple sap can only be collected during the cold and brief six weeks from early March to mid-April. And, on average, a Sugar Maple will yield 40 gallons of maple sap each year, which boils down to only one gallon of maple syrup.

I'm looking forward to my annual spring binge; namely, maple syrup on my morning pancakes, waffles and French toast, maple syrup drizzled over cooking bacon and breakfast sausage, maple sticky buns, maple glazed carrots, maple butter, and the traditional March treat, hot, thick maple syrup drizzled over snow.