Maple syrup season is here and in full swing. It’s an enjoyable yet busy time for us all.
As a little girl, maple syrup season was a highlight for me. Dad’s enthusiasm was contagious to us children as he took time to teach us how to tap trees and tell us stories of his boyhood days and how they worked together as a family tapping trees. He recalled how times had been tough and money scarce on the farm. One day, he came home from town and told his family how the sugar price had been skyrocketing and how he decided there in the grocery store that it was time to start making our own maple syrup.
They set to work building a sugar shack in one of the back sections of their woods which contained hundreds of maple trees. When it was time to collect sap, they placed large barrels onto their horse-drawn sled and hitched it up to a team of two horses. The sled slid smoothly over the snow.
Have you ever had the opportunity to watch or even help with the tapping of trees? For me, maple syrup season was something I thoroughly enjoyed as a young girl. Not only because of the fact that we were making our own maple syrup, but especially because it was something that Dad did with us. It was special because Dad had his heart in helping us children and teaching us how it was done.
Using a drill, the boys would drill several sets of two to three holes into the side of a maple tree. Then using a hammer they tapped a spout into each hole. Next, they hung a five-gallon bucket by each set of spouts. Now everything was ready for a cold night with temperatures rising during the day allowing the sap to drip into the pails. Once the pails were filled, the hard work really began. Each pail had to be carried to the large barrels where they were emptied.
Now came my favorite part: We were ready to go to the wood stove to cook down the sap. My dad and brothers had laid bricks where a four-by-five-foot pan was set.
I loved spending time by the fireside after dark. One evening especially stands out for me. I was 15 years old and my brother Javin and I had supper together as we tended the fire. Darkness had settled over the woods as the fire merrily crackled away sending billows of sweet smelling sap vapor to the sky. Overhead the stars twinkled softly. It was one of those memories that just seemed too good to be true. That evening I told him about the commitment I had made to serve the Lord. Even though I had always wanted to live for God, I had found a new and more meaningful relationship with Him. It meant more than the world to me to have a big brother who was there to help and encourage me.
Later that evening, the rest of the family joined us. We spent time chatting and singing. I remember singing one of my favorites, “There’s a Deep Settled Peace in my Soul.”
In recent years, the maple syrup endeavors have been growing. It’s gone from a backyard hobby to a business. My brother Micah does most of the syrup in our family now. Micah does approximately 500 gallons in a season and sells it both retail and wholesale.
Even though we no longer cook the sap down in the woods and we have a more commercial setup, it still remains a family endeavor. On the first night of sugar season, we enjoy gathering in the sugar shack and eating homemade pancakes and maple syrup. Maple syrup is always a treat and we use it in countless ways. Daniel loves spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread and soaking it in maple syrup. I use it quite a bit in cooking and baking. We especially like “maple butter.” It is a delicious creamy spread that is perfect for pancakes or on a slice of homemade bread.
Readers with culinary or culture questions or stories to share may write Gloria Yoder, 10568 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427.