Sweet Taste of Spring
An ode to the changing of seasons and celebration of nature’s bounty.
For me, as well as many others that live throughout the north, there is only one true way to tell when spring has finally arrived after a long winter: the sweet taste of spring. The sweet taste of spring referring to the age-old tradition of making maple syrup, which has been passed down for generations. This time of year, the warm temperatures above freezing during the day allows the tree sap to flow freely and draws people from the depths of their home and back into the pleasant warmth of sunshine as the earth begins to thaw. Whether you make syrup or not, it is a very happy and welcomed time for all.
With a hand drill, hammer, taps, and bucket in hand, the first of many taps are placed throughout our yard. We carefully analyze our maple trees as we make note of where the holes have healed from years prior. Once the best location is picked, the hand drill begins to penetrate the tree and the first drips of sweet sap begin to flow out like water dripping from a faucet. We are careful that no drips go to waste, as the sap flow time is limited each spring and the work to gather the syrup is hard. And besides, the trees work so hard to produce this “liquid gold”, if we are going to use it, it should not be wasted.
The pitter-patter of sap hitting the bottom of the bucket compares only to the tranquil sound of rain falling gently on your tent. With a chorus of birds who have newly arrived from their long migration, they too are in search of the sugar-filled sap running from the cracks and crevices in the tree. A sense of rejuvenation is in the air as the seasons change and new life begins to grow. Pure joy overcomes me as the landscape comes back to life and the thought that fresh batches of syrup are now within reach.
In order to reap the rewards of pure, natural maple syrup, it takes time. Time for the sap to drip and fill your buckets and a lot of time boiling off excess water for the concentrated sugars that we know as syrup. Depending on what type of tree your tapping, it may take even longer. Species like maple have higher concentrations of sugar in their sap, while other species like birch are much more diluted, but provide a different and unique flavor you cannot get from maples.
After many hours of collecting the sap, filtering it, and then finally boiling it down, the sap is precisely finished with a hydrometer to 66.7% sugar concentration. Filtered once more as it is poured into its glass bottle, where it will stay throughout the year, until those special days when it is required. Every meal with real maple syrup is treasured. The rewards of your hard work are realized and its sweet taste takes you back to spring. From tree to table, the long-standing tradition continues, just as it has been done for centuries.
The much-anticipated syrup season always passes in the blink of an eye. Only lasting a few weeks to a month, depending on weather and where you live. Eventually, the temperatures steady above freezing, the trees begin to bud and the sap is no longer desirable for making syrup.
The buckets and taps are pulled, cleaned, and put back on the shelf, where they await the arrival of next year’s sap flow. The bottles of golden-colored syrup are gifted and used proudly throughout the year as a reminder of the long-anticipated time of year that will indeed return again next year with the sweet taste of spring.