When spring gives winter a bit of a shake, when puddles are frozen during cold nights, but melt during warm days, it’s maple syrup season! Tapping pierces the outer and inner bark of the maple tree, and sap in the (you guessed it) sapwood drips out into buckets. The freezing and thawing of sap in maple trees creates pressure (up to half that of a car tire) and pushes the sap, drop by drop, out of the tree. It tastes just a bit sweet – about two to three percent sugar.
Sugar Maples are renowned for their sweet sap. Other maples, like Black, Norway, Silver, Red and Manitoba can also be tapped. Black Walnut syrup tastes like very similar to maple syrup, some say with a hint of a nutty flavour. Birch trees can also be tapped, starting about when maple syrup season ends in early spring.
For some kitchen fun, you can turn maple syrup into maple sugar! Pour some syrup into a pot, then bring to a gentle boil. At 125 degrees C, it’s time to take it off the heat, stir it like crazy for several minutes, the pour it out onto a candy mold or a flat pan. The sugar is warm and delicious! Long ago, indigenous people and settlers (when they learned the trick) made mostly maple sugar, since it was much more portable and easier to store than maple syrup. It was their only source of sugar!