The production of maple syrup has been an activity of early spring since the pre-Colombian era in America. American natives would gash the trees, collect the sap, let it partially freeze to enrich the sap and then boil it down, sometimes by dropping heated stones into the sap.
To have maple sap flow from maple trees requires below freezing temperatures at night (24 to 30 degrees) and above freezing during the days (38 to 44 degrees). Maple trees should be 10 inches in diameter or larger to be tapped. It takes approximately 40 years for a maple tree to grow to that size.
The New England states- New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut account for 57% of all the taps in the United States. In 2006 the United States produced 1.45 million gallons of Maple syrup. That translates into 5,800,000,000.00 gallons of sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Vermont is the highest producing state followed by Maine and New York.
This is the "Old" way of collecting sap. Although many maple producers still use the traditional bucket-with-spout-and-cover system for tapping their trees, others use high technology plastic tubing and pipeline systems, some of which include vacuum extraction to increase the amount of sap collected. This doesn't hurt trees and keeps the sap-lines empty which helps produce a higher quality sap for high quality maple syrup. Today's maple producers are also using "health spouts" to lessen the impact of tree-tapping. With the new spouts, trees now heal over in less than one growing season. Regardless of the method of gathering sap, it must be collected after each "run" and boiled as soon and as fast as possible to make the best quality maple syrup.
Maple sap is about 97.5 percent water, 2.4 percent sugar, and 0.1 percent minerals. Sap is made into maple syrup by boiling off the water and concentrating the sugar and minerals in the presence of heat. During the process of evaporation heat causes chemical reactions in the concentrated sap resulting in the characteristic flavor we know as maple syrup. The color and flavor of maple syrup is determined by the freshness of the sap and the speed of boiling.
My dad and his best friend had a Sugar Bush and each spring we would gather at the Sap House and scoop up fresh snow and pour the hot syrup over it and devour it. Good memories.
Hope you enjoyed our little trip though NH's spring time right of passage. Oh, by the way.. another snow storm is headed our way for Thursday. Prepare for a barrage of cussing!