by Megan Devine
On the tail end of winter, typically mid to late March, there are a stretch of days where the temperature is below freezing overnight and above freezing during the day. This is the time of year that sap "runs" in the trees - maple syrup season.
I first became interested in the process of making maple syrup when I saw bags and buckets pop up on the silver maples on the city streets in my community. I was curious, so I researched, read, and decided to give it a try.
I purchased some simple supplies and decided to learn right alongside my kindergarten students, tapping a handful of healthy maple trees on our elementary schoolyard.
Together we collected sap daily, making a chart and recording how many gallons we harvested each day. I shared the experience with my own four children as well when we would collect sap on the weekend and when they would help me transport 5-gallon buckets of sloshing sap in the back of our vehicle from the schoolyard to our rural home. My own children have been the most involved in the processing, a full day spent outdoors boiling sap, tasting sap, and boiling sap some more until it is ready to be finished on the stovetop indoors, then filtered and bottled.
I have learned over the years, approaching the experience as a hobbyist, that I can boil 20 gallons of sap (or less) in about 8 hours. This yields enough syrup to share with my kindergarten class at our annual celebratory classroom pancake party, and a few pints for our family to savor and enjoy over the year. More sap would extend the boiling time. I would get more syrup, but it makes the experience more burdensome (boiling into the evening time or night even). I have found my "happy place" with this small-scale approach, and I look forward to the experience and products of my efforts every year.
There is something special about maple syrup season. The experience and the process has become something I look forward to every year, especially after a long Minnesota winter.
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