A History of Maple Syrup and Mapledale Farm

Pure maple syrup with its wild, delicate, lingering bouquet of earth with just a hint of smoke is the most luxurious of sugars.

"What you smell in freshly cut maple wood, or taste in the blossom of the tree is in it." Wrote Naturalist John Burroughs in 1886. Sugaring, the ritual of tapping maple trees, gathering, and boiling down maple sap into syrup, is an annual rite of spring in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. With the first warm sunny days in the spring, with freezing nights, the maple sap begins to flow.

When the signs are right, sugar farmers grab their buckets and trudge out over the snow blanketed ground around the "sugar bushes", maple tree groves. For Mapledale Farm, as it is for many, is the same ground trod by fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers. Mapledale Farm was established in 1874 as a Dairy Farm, with many acres of maple woods and maple sugaring was another way of producing income. In the early days, until the late 1950’s the sap was gathered from the trees by a "sap sled" pulled by a team of horses. In the early sixties sugaring was suspended. The original Sugarhouse was abandoned and soon was gone. In 1982 Mapledale Farm began to produce syrup again with a very small evaporator. Since then, we have increased our production and are now producing 150 gallons per season. The new sugarhouse, pictured above, was built in 1997 from Poplar trees cut out of our own woods.

Early reports tell of Indians pouring sap into hollowed-out wood troughs and tediously throwing hot stones into the sap to boil it down. Although we still collect pails of sap by going from tree to tree with a tractor drawn gathering tank on a trailer, many large producers attach plastic tubing to the spouts to form a network of lines that lead directly to the sugarhouse. "Sugaring season" usually only lasts four to six weeks and is over when the buds start to break.

Maple sap from the tree is clear liquid which contains only two percent sugar. It takes about forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup. We boil the sap in shallow metal pans called an evaporator, or "rig", fueled by wood. Many now use fuel oil or gas to heat with. We filter the sap twice when gathering and triple filter when we take a ‘batch’ off. The quicker we can boil the sap down, the better the quality and taste.

We will ship syrup anywhere, and we have it available in gallon, half-gallon, quart, pint containers and is avaliable in different grades (grade A light, medium, and dark).

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