While in the thaw period during the transition of winter to spring, you are saying goodbye to the snow and to your winter gear. Maple trees are being attacked by sap collectors because it is the ideal time of year for doing so. What for, you ask? For maple syrup, of course. That sweetener you pour over your buttered pancakes? That’s it.
It all starts with an incision or a hole on the maple tree (usually the sugar maple or black maple), penetrating the bark until it gets deep enough for sap to drip from the wound. A spout or a tap is then placed in the hole so the sap can drip and be collected in buckets or allowed to flow through tubing that will directly go to so-called “sugarhouses.” The sap isn’t yet of the same consistence as the maple syrup that you know, so it will need to be drained of its water in the sugarhouse by reverse osmosis and boiling, or boiling alone. Water evaporates and the sap becomes thicker and sweeter. Boiling is stopped when the correct density is already reached, and that is 1,333 kg/m3 at 219 °F (104 °C), as tested by a hydrometer. A low density will not render the syrup sweet enough and only make it spoil more easily; a high density will make it crystallize when in the bottles. Once the correct density has been reached, the maple syrup is drawn off, filtered, and then bottled while hot.
Maple syrup can be eaten with most breakfast foods, like waffles, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal, and crumpets. It can be used as an ingredient in baking or making of candy, or as a flavoring agent when making beer. It can even be allowed to boil more and then left to cool to make maple butter/cream, or boiled even further to make maple taffy/candy or sugar.