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Massachusetts Maple Sugaring

Collecting Maple SapThe process of producing maple syrup has gone through many changes since Native American Indians first discovered the sweet, clear liquid. Today there are over 100 sugarhouses open to the public in Massachusetts. The process is still labor intensive and time consuming, but the results are well worth the efforts.

Maple syrup production usually begins in the spring, in late February and early March. This is the time of year when nights are in the low 20s and days are in the 40s. Temperatures alternating back and forth past the freezing point cause the sap to run.

Sap is collected by tapping healthy maple trees at least 10 inches in diameter. A hole is drilled waist high, and a metal spout (called a "spile") is inserted and the sap is collected in a covered bucket hanging from a hook - or, in a high tech system, a plastic spout is inserted that is connected to a pipeline system.

Once the maple sap is collected, it is brought to the "sugarhouse," where it's poured into an evaporator (a multi-channeled pan) and boiled. As the water is boiled off, the liquid becomes sweeter. The sap is approximately 98% water and 2% sugar at the time it is taken from the tree, and once it is finished, it is only 33% water and 67% sugar. At this rate, it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup!Sugarhouse When the temperature reaches seven and a half degrees above the boiling point of water, it becomes maple syrup, a completely natural sweetener.

Stopping by a sugarhouse is high on our visitors' lists - it's both fun to watch and fun to taste! Most sugarhouses are open to the public, and many even have restaurants where you can sample the freshly made syrup poured over a stack of steaming hot pancakes.

Sugarhouse photo courtesy of Three Bears Sugar Shack. Photo of maple sap collecting by Jim McElholm.