History of Maple Syrup
American Indians were excellent farmers and were the first to cultivate what today comprises 50% of the world's plant foods, such as maize (corn), beans, peanuts, potatoes, tapioca, squash, pumpkins, and many other fruits and vegetables. Among these staples they also were the first to produce maple syrup.
Indians of the Northeast tapped maple trees in the spring when the sap began to rise. A v-shaped gash was cut in the trunk and a wood spout was inserted. A birch bark pail sealed with pine pitch was hung at the base of each gash to catch the sap. Sap was collected and boiled in large vats until it was the desired thickness. It was then poured into troughs or molds and allowed to harden and crystallize into sugar. A portion was cooked for a shorter time for syrup. The Native Americans used maple sugar as we use granulated sugar today, and it was often pounded with corn for a flavorful mash that provided a portable meal.
The Indians of North America passed their remarkably sophisticated knowledge of maple sugar production to early colonists, and technological advances since then have minimally touched production. Although new discoveries have simplified the operation and improved methods of boiling sap, long hours of labor are still essential and the process remains nearly the same as the early Natives' process.
In early spring, holes are drilled into the maple trees and hollow metal or plastic spiles are inserted. Buckets or lines are attached to the spiles to catch the valuable sap that rises from the roots of the tree with the warming of the sun. The collected sap is put into storage vats and brought to the sugar house. At the sugar house, the sap is boiled in an evaporator specifically designed for maple syrup production. When the syrup reaches the proper temperature and thickness, it is drawn from the pan and bottled. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.