Saturday, March 26, 2011

Maple Syrup Festival

While I was in Korea I was interested in seeing what some of my students thought a stereotype of Canada may be. Often one of the top answers is Maple Syrup. This makes sense considering the Maple Leaf on the Canadian flag. My Korean students were not alone in these thoughts.

Every year my small town of Watford Ontario has a Maple Syrup Festival. I have always taken it for granted as not a big deal (still really enjoy eating at it though). But perhaps in other parts of the world it is a pretty cool festival.

Prior years at the festival had trips to the actual sugar bush where the magic happens, and rides on the antique fire truck through the village. Then is the main event, all you can eat pancakes, pieces of sausage and, of course, as much maple syrup as you desire for this meal. There is also maple syrup available for purchase in several sizes.

This year the festivities were minimal. There were no fire truck rides and no trips to the sugar bush. The meal was just as good as I always remember. The picture above does not do it justice.

When I was in grade school, a good friend of mine had a small sugar bush that he ran as a hobby with his family. I helped out a few times. Towards the end of winter, when the weather begins to heat up slightly, maple trees (including the sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees) are tapped. This means you drill a small hole into the tree and place a metal tap slanted downwards, at the end of the tap you place a bucket. Sap, or tree water drips into the bucket from the tree. My job, when I helped out, was to gather the buckets of sap and bring it back to the sugar shack.

In the sugar shack is a boiling pan where the sap is placed. The pan is usually heated by a large wood furnace. As the sap travels through, the water evaporates from the sap. The sap is considered maple syrup when it boils 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water, or roughly 219 degrees Fahrenheit.

Instead of pails, a larger sugar bush will use hoses to collect the sap.

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