By Mary Emma Allen

Gathering the maple's sap and boiling it into syrup was a winter activity at many rural homes in the days of yesteryear and still is a late winter task today as February flows into March. Sugar was scarce and expensive in those early days, so the colonials made their sweetening agents from raw products on hand.

Much earlier than the colonists, the native people were making use of maple syrup and sugar to sweeten their corn dishes. From them the early settlers learned to tap male trees and boil down the sap.

Sap Gathering

The sap was gathered from the tapped trees and poured into huge kettles to boil over outdoor fires. During the night, the kettles often were taken into the sugarhouse to finish boiling.

We didn't do any large scale maple sugaring when I was a child. However, Father tapped a few maples in our front yard so we children could experience this activity. As the sap accumulated, Mother boiled it down in a big iron kettle on the kitchen wood cook stove.

Sugaring Parties

Often sap gathering and sugaring was a neighborhood affair, with everyone joining the sugaring-off party at the end of the sap run each year. Hot biscuits were dipped into warm syrup as a treat. The syrup or thicker candy liquid was dripped onto snow for a taffy-like refreshment. My aunt told of eating sour pickles along with the sweets when she was a girl in New England.

Syrup Making a Lengthy Process

Making maple syrup from the sap is a lengthy process for it takes approximately 35 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup. then even more is needed when boiled down to make any quantity of maple sugar or candy Maple honey results from syrup boiled to the consistency of honey. Maple butter of cream is maple syrup that has been boiled to the soft sugar stage, then cooled and stirred until smooth.

As you enjoy maple syrup this year, recalling the history of this tasty food may enhance its pleasure.

Cooking with Maple Sugar/Syrup

MAPLE BAKED APPLES - These have been a favorite for years with families who live in maple syrup areas. Core apples and pare around the top. Put apples in a shallow baking dish; fill centers with maple syrup. You also can add golden raisins and/or walnuts to the centers. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 to 40 minutes, until apples are tender. Baste the apples with pan juices several times while baking. Add more water to the pan, if necessary. Serve with cream, whipped cream, or ice cream. (If you'd like, you can put maple sugar into the center of the apples instead of syrup.)

MAPLE SAUCE - Many cooks use maple syrup or maple honey as a sauce over ice cream, puddings, and cake. You also can make MAPLE PINEAPPKE SAUCE by combining 1/2 cup maple syrup with 1 cup crushed, drained pineapple. Heat the mixture to boiling and seve hot over desserts, pancakes, French toast, or waffles.

(c)Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen frequently writes about New Hampshire history and cooking. She also is a children's author and gives author presentations in schools and libraries. Visit her web site at or email at

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