In the olden days, there was no stove, no gas and the only way to boil any liquid was to put heated rocks into the pan. The heat of the rocks gets transferred to the liquid and that’s how the native Americans used to make soup.
That’s how even Clair used to make soup everyday for her husband Woksis. Woksis, our very own native american, used to go out hunting all day and bring back meat to throw into the soup. The water, spices and meat had to be in the right proportion everyday to make a good recipe. The process of heating up rocks, boiling water and making soup used to take so long that there was no time to redo anything. If failed, Clair and Woksis had no option but to drink the bad soup and call it a day.
One such day, when nothing was going their way, Woksis was unable to hunt, Clair was unable to get the proportions right. Dejected on his fate, Woksis angrily threw his axe at a tree and they went to bed. The next day a bucket kept beneath the tree was full of liquid and Clair thought her husband had fetched water for her bright and early to get the soup ready. Little did she know that it was not water but a bucket full of maple sap. That night the soup tasted amazing and it turned out to be the best soup they had ever made.
Thinking what changed, Clair then realized that she may not have used water in her soup, but some liquid generated by a tree in their yard. The sweetness of that liquid was so enticing that Clair started to boil it further until it became a concentrate …and thus maple syrup was invented.
A gallon of maple syrup is generated by boiling nearly sixty gallons of sap. The maple trees generate sap when the nights are cold but the days are warmer. That’s the beginning of spring. During spring time, this sap is collected in buckets that are attached to the tree like the one shown below. These are covered so that this sweet sap is not consumed by wildlife. One tree can generate more than 40 to 50 buckets of sap.
Early sugar makers gathered their sap in wooden buckets as they went from tree to tree. The sap was then boiled down in a series of large iron kettles hanging over a long open fire. As the syrup got thicker in one kettle it was ladled into the next one and fresh sap was then added to the first kettle. In this way, they always had the last kettle full of nearly completed syrup or sugar. When it was finally thickened enough, the liquid sugar was stirred until it began to crystallize, then poured of into wooden molds.
These blocks of maple sugar could be broken up or shaved later in the year when needed. Nowadays the sap is flown through a channeled evaporator where all the excess water is evaporated to get the sugar concentration to 66% at 219deg F. This temperature and concentration has to be perfect for the maple syrup to taste good. Otherwise the syrup can become less sweet.
Such process is carried out at the Moose Hill wildlife sanctuary in Sharon, MA. This is where we got a tour of their facility and also had a chance to taste their homemade maple syrup.