Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Indian Springs Maple Syrup Demonstration

I'm settling down after the chicks being born, and thought I would post about something other than chickens for a change. (I forget sometimes that not everyone in the world is as obsessed with them as I am, ha!)

Our mission to get maple syrup continues. After our last flop attempt at tapping maple trees (see Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber Tap Maple Trees) we decided that we needed some professional assistance. So we attended the Indian Springs Maple Syrup Demonstration. 

We started the day at the nature center in a classroom setting where we learned the history of the maple syruping process and how it has changed over the years. Starting with the Chippewa Indians (which I'm part) and how they constructed buckets and boiling systems by heating rocks and adding them to the syrup containers.

Then we learned how the settlers changed this system with the introduction of metal buckets and spigots. And finally how the large production companies make maple syrup today.

One of the most interesting things we learned is that there is a very small area in the world where maple syrup can be tapped. It is a state wide range including Michigan, Wisconsin, some of southern Canada and a few of the New England states. This is the only place in the world where the change in temperatures throughout the day produces the unique phenomenon which forces the sap to flow.

We also learned about the different grades of syrup starting with fancy, then the different A and B varieties. We also learned that Mrs. Buttersworth, and syrups of a similar variety, are made of corn syrup with artificial maple flavoring.

The most helpful lesson we learned (ahem) was how to identify a maple tree in the spring where there are no leaves present. There is an acronym that can help in this identification process. MADHorse stands for Maples, Ash, Dogwood and Horse Chestnut. These are a select group of trees where the branches grow parallel to each other. Most other trees, the branches are staggered. Another way to identify a maple is by looking at it's bark. The bark on a maple has flat vertical panels and it usually is splitting open on one side.

Turns out we were right to begin with. The tree we originally tapped was in fact a maple. We were just a little too early. It's flowing now!

After we left the classroom, we headed out on the trail to find a maple. Indian Springs provided a great display of historic mock ups along the way, demonstrating how the maple syrup collection has changed over the years.

It was a great spring walk through the woods with the sounds of tricking melted snow, Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes returning on their migration from the south.

The group of us had to identify and agree on a maple tree. Then one member of the group was allowed to tap the tree. We all got to taste the sap. It was slightly sweet and mildly woodsy-maple flavored.

After we tapped, we walked further down the path to the boiling system. It smelled WONDERFUL!! A hearty combination of  campfire and maple scented steam. We watched as the syrup boiled down and then we were able to taste the delicious syrup!

For more information visit:
Fee: $3 per person. 1-800-477-3192 or 248-625-7280.

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