Eventually you made the same mistakes as we did. Well known events take place close to the place where you live or major attractions could be reached within a short time, but you never went there because you thought that you can do this at any time because it is so close.
By thinking so we missed many things which we regret now. You are forced to move to another place and your chance is gone. Because we are willing to learn we joined a tour through the "Sugar Bush" in our area.
It was great fun and we learned about harvesting the sap and about the history of making the delicious maple syrup. This tour was only provided during certain weekends in March.
So we drove on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon to the nearby farm. After parking our car we walked a short distance to the place where the tour started. Many people have had the same idea as we and it looked pretty busy.
Unfortunately there was an icy wind blowing and Elizabeth, my wife, began to shiver. She was not properly dressed for this little adventure. I did not have any problems because of my "built in protection". Elizabeth is very skinny and I had to tell her German words of wisdom "Lieber rund und gesund, als schlank und krank." which means better to be round and healthy than skinny and sick.
We decided to drive back and return on Sunday in appropriate outfit.
On Sunday Elizabeth put on about five layers of warm clothing, starting with angora underwear which we imported from Germany at this time. After she confirmed that she will survive this time we went to the farm again.
No sun was shining this time but despite that - many visitors showed up again.
We purchased tickets to participate in the official tour. Two tractors with trailers were used to transport the participants to the "sugar bush" which was in fact a forest in which the sap was harvested and all the demonstrations took place.
We passengers had to seat on pails of straw. We were one of the first ones and got a place directly above the axle. Without any delay the tractor pulled us away and we realized immediately that this "coach" did not have any suspension with springs and that the farm road had many pot holes.
Despite that we arrived without any bodily harm at our destination.
The first station demonstrated how the native people prepared the syrup
The maple trees are tapped and the sap is collected in a bucket below.
We also saw some kind of a pipe line on trees which were growing an a slanted hill. All the sap was collected in a central located plastic container.
Obviously the tapping does not do any harm to the trees. The method is used since generations and the maple forests are not dying.
I guided some of our European visitors to this farm where they could purchase all year long maple syrup and maple candies directly from the producer. Ask about the different grades of maple syrup if you are not familiar with that.
We recommend that you only purchase syrup in glass or plastic containers. If you purchase syrup in attractive tins you may find out that the quality goes down. At least we made this experience twice. Under no circumstances leave the syrup in a tin which has been opened.
The most expensive maple syrup is "Grade A Light Amber". We prefer this because it does not have the strong taste. But other people prefer a stronger flavor. The decision is up to you. Eventually you are allowed to try the different grades.
Maple syrup is also used for making candies and maple butter. It is used for cooking, for ice cream and even in sausages. Just try it!
The first step to improve the making of maple syrup
The required fire wood to boil the sap down was cut here. There are always old and sick trees which must make room for younger ones.
Visitor were allowed to do some free exercises by using big hand saws to cut the already dried logs in smaller pieces.
However, they were not allowed to split the wood with an axe. Today normally machines are doing this job.
Shown here is another improvement in boiling down the sap. Flat pans which provide a much larger surface are used.
It was a nice afternoon in the "sugar bush" and Elizabeth did not complain any more about feeling cold. You only must wear an appropriate outfit to enjoy everything.
For little money you could try here various specialities prepared with maple syrup
For every trip the pails of straw are replaced by new ones
The path through the forest was covered with wooden chips to prevent damage to the soil and to keep our shoes clean. Many signs provided helpful information.
The first station showed how the native people produced the maple syrup in the past. They did not have any pottery which could withstand fire or excessive heat required to boil the sap.
For that reason they heated up stones in a wooden fire and through them in a wooden tub which was filled with the sap.
This was an intelligent but time consuming procedure. However it worked and even the first Europeans used this method.
Jean M. Auel provides many more interesting information in her well know book series "Earth's Children®" how people still living in the ice age knew how to overcome many restrictions. How would we survive if we would loose over night all our technology and tools? Are we smarter?
Elizabeth is checking the level of sap in the bucket
It did not take long time until the first European settlers improved the making of maple syrup.
The availability of cast iron cook ware was the reason. This was demonstrated here.
The young lady in an historical looking outfit was very friendly and patient. She could answer all questions.
Immediately after WWII syrup was made in Germany in a similar way using sugar roots. However, the taste of this syrup could not match that of fine maple syrup.
Believe it or not - I had my first experience with maple syrup in Japan where it was served with pan cakes for breakfast. I preferred that to fish, because I already had an overdose of sea creatures. - cooked, raw and almost still alive.
Preparing the fire wood was another demonstration
Naturally we did not want to miss the chance to try some of the offered specialities which have been prepared with maple syrup.
We both ordered hot coffee with it.
On the menu were thick pancakes with maple syrup, pan fried slices of sausage with maple syrup, muffins with maple butter, baked beans with maple syrup and much more.
No alcohol was offered and smoking was already banned.
In an adjacent little store we purchased later some gifts and a whole frozen sausage.
If you are visiting Ontario in this season don't miss to join such a tour.
Several places offer them. We do not want to make free advertising any longer for any private business so we will not tell you where we made this wonderful experience.
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