Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Maple Syruping

I’m a little behind on posting, so please forgive me for this delayed blog.

Last week we did, what I guess you could call, our first “official” homeschool activity. Even though we are not doing anything official, in any capacity whatsoever, resembling homeschooling, this was an opportunity that we absolutely didn’t want to miss--especially since it is so dependent on the season. Another added bonus was that John was able to attend with us so it was truly a family event.

Missouri has an incredible Department of Conservation that is very committed to education and has wonderful programs, for all ages. It was one of these programs, named one of their “Homeschool Specials,” that we attended—Maple Syruping. As a family, we have always been partial to real maple syrup on our pancakes and waffles and, although it is clearly more expensive, the authentic taste is beyond compare. So, we were very excited to be able to learn all about the process and hopefully be brought closer to the source of our beloved sweetner.

The demonstration was held on one of the Conservation Department’s numerous natural areas, which are protected by law and maintained by the Department. It was only a 30 minute drive from the house which was wonderful. We learned how to identify sugar maples and that cold nights and warmer days make for the best harvesting of sap. Our particular morning was certainly cold. The previous night’s low was 24 and by 11:30 or so, it was just barely 32 degrees. The rest of the week would bring warmer temperatures though and we couldn’t help but think that it was definitely “sugaring” weather.

We then walked over to the “sugar bush” which is the area where the tapping of the trees is most numerous. There were probably about 10-12 trees with buckets hanging from them. We were all asked to go retrieve a bucket and from all of our buckets we only managed to yield one gallon of sap. The sap looks like water, thin and clear, and in fact, is about 97% water. Because of its high water content, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. We were then shown the process of boiling down the sap over an evaporator. It is an incredibly labor intensive job, taking about an hour in the evaporator for every gallon of sap you are boiling. I have a whole new appreciation for this product and I no longer feel that the price is exorbitant but rather it is reflective of the time and energy invested in the glorious finish. It makes me wonder why it doesn’t cost even more, honestly.

Our last stop was at a picnic table topped with two trays of waffle pieces. Everyone was instructed to sample a piece from each tray and to try and identify which one was dribbled with real maple syrup and which one was clothed with the imposter (aka, Mrs. Butterworth’s). I knew right away but I waited to see what Aidan had to say. He guessed the same as what I was thinking and when I asked him how he knew which one was the real maple syrup, he responded with, “Because it tasted good!” That’s my boy! August, on the other hand, was so pumped to be having waffles in the middle of the day that he just smiled continuously while he munched.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't realize the Dept of Conservation offered these activies you have to keep me posted on future events!