Country Kitchen: Maple Sugaring Time Arrives

Country Kitchen: Maple Sugaring Time Arrives

By Mary Emma Allen

With chilly nights and warmer days, the sap begins to run in the maple trees of northern climates. Since I'd grown up in New York State and eventually lived in New Hampshire, I considered New England as the major sugaring hub.

So I was surprised to find the streets of Chardon, in northeastern Ohio, lined with tapped trees in late winter. The buckets hung from maples in many yards. The maple sugaring festival was a highlight of that time of year. Other northern areas of our country also produce maple products, as well as Canada.

When I was a child, we tapped maple trees in the front yard of our Hudson Valley home and boiled sap in a large black kettle on the kitchen woodstove. We didn't produce a large amount. However, this provided us children a memorable experience and tasty samples. We also gained an idea of the lengthy process involved in making maple syrup and sugar.

Native American History of Maple Sugar

The Native Americans of New England and eastern Canada utilized the maple's sap for syrup and sugar. They taught the early colonists how to produce this sweetener which was the most common one until the Civil War years. At that time cane sugar, imported from the Indies, replaced maple sugar. Today, maple products are considered a specialty.

The natives made containers of birch bark or hollowed wood to catch the sap. They boiled this into syrup and sugar. Sometimes they used a freezing and thawing process which produced sugar granules.

Maple Sugaring an Industry

Producing maple sugar and syrup has become a seasonal industry in some areas where maples grow. From gathering sap in buckets, loading them on a horse drawn sleigh, than transporting them to a sugar house where the liquid was boiled, this process has been modernized and speeded up.

Sugar farmers loop tubes from the trees to large plastic gathering containers. This may be connected directly to a sugar house, or the barrels may be hauled there`.

Some maple sugaring farms offer tours where you can see how maple sugar and syrup is made.

Maple Sugaring Outings

My aunt related the enjoyable times of her younger years when she and her friends attended maple sugaring parties in New Hampshire and Quebec, where she also lived. They gathered at the sap house in the woods for an evening of social festivities.

The highlight of the evening was pouring maple syrup over snow and having it become a stringy, sugary mass which was so tasty, she said. To accompany the overly sweet treat, dill pickles were served.

Maple Syrup Treats

MAPLE SYRUP BAKED APPLES - My aunt often made her baked apples with maple syrup as the sweetener. Place cored apples in a shallow baking dish. Fill centers with raisins and maple syrup. Cover bottom of pan with 1/2 inch water.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender. While the apples are baking, spoon the maple pan juices over them three or four times. Add more water to pan if necessary.

Serve warm or cool with whipped cream or ice cream. My mom sometimes poured a mixture of cream with sugar and cinnamon or nutmeg over the apples when serving.

Article (C) 2004 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing her "Cooking Column" for newspapers and online publications for 30 years and has compiled a family cookbook. SheÂ’s currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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