The Making of Maple Syrup

If we were to think of a group activity that combines a lot of preparation, a bit of shopping, building an outdoor woods network in the winter elements, supplying fuel for lots of fire, harvesting one large product to turn into a much smaller one that in the end is pure reward to our tasting senses, how many answers could there be? Just one that I can come up with:

In the waning weeks of winter and into the early spring we revived a favorite activity to many in these parts: the making of maple syrup, or sugaring! Although it would seem likely that syrup was being made at Glen Brook somehow in the past two centuries, we don’t have a record of any sugar houses here until more recently. In the mid ‘80s Steve Yardley built the sugar house we know and use today. Steve built sugaring lines in many places suited to drain downhill, and hung buckets on maples that still decorate our camp, and some on trees that have since been removed. When Steve moved further up Horse Hill, the sugaring stopped for a spell. In 2008 the sugar house was given new life when Twain Braden acquired a new evaporator and a new program: winter family weekends.

There is something about sugaring that is timeless. Yes, technology has worked its way in to many operations, and has helped keep many people in business for it. But to make syrup one need not be bound to anything beyond heat, a tap or spile, a few select vessels, and a patient eye. There is beauty in the solitude of running an evaporator, the large vessel we use to boil, and there is social bonding through moving and splitting wood, gathering sap, and sharing a few ounces of syrup together. It gives special meaning to know that something from our forest can be transformed before arriving in our kitchen for Chef Robyn to serve. Everyone loves a good transformation! After the temperatures rose, the sap lost its sugar content, heralding the twilight of sugaring for the year. It was been a good year for harvesting sap, and therefore making syrup – with five to six good weeks of production. Now we’ve pull apart the evaporator, sprayed and scrubbed it down. We gathered all buckets, tanks, and lines to wash and stow away for another year. The wood shed will get emptied and cleaned to make way for the coming summer arts and crafts classes that will transform the sugar house back into the art studio. We’ll keep the good memories, the lessons learned, and enjoy the coming meals that have syrup as part of the menu.

– Grant Butler


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