Learn about making maple syrup around Missouri
by Paul Newton | email@example.com
Missouri offers an abundance of outdoor activities all year long. When the temperatures dip in the winter, some may be inclined to stay inside. However, if you have a few tools, a little know-how and just the right tree on your property, some time outdoors can end with a sweet treat for you and your family: homemade maple syrup.
“We have a window of about six weeks in January and February where the factors are ideal,” says Dan Zarlenga, media specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “When the sap is ﬂ owing in the sugar maple trees, we can tap into them and draw it out.”
The sap ﬂows throughout the trees when the temperature dips below freezing overnight and rises above that line during the day. The greater the difference between the two temperatures, the more sap will potentially ﬂ ow. Sap tapped out of sugar maple trees consists of about 97% water and just 3% sugar.
The process of transforming the sap into delicious syrup is extremely simple, although not speedy. It is boiled down, which evaporates the water and concentrates the sugar. A 40-gallon batch of sap will result in a single gallon of maple syrup.“You need to do the main boiling outdoors over a ﬁre pit, grill or something like that,” Dan says. “Otherwise you’ll end up with sticky walls in your house.”
The department recommends moving the liquid indoors as it closes in on becoming syrup so you can better regulate the heat. Once ﬁnished it is ﬁltered and ready to be drizzled on top of your Sunday morning pan-cakes.
“The real maple syrup is going to be thinner than the bottles you might get at the grocery store,” Dan says. “Some of those brands aren’t actually maple syrup, but corn syrup with maple ﬂavoring. This will be authentic. The taste is more pure.”
MDC hosts events at Rockwoods Reservation in Wild-wood to show off some of the cold-weather opportunities available outdoors, including maple sugaring. The department employs some history when teaching the process.
“We demonstrate some of the ways people in the past have used sap and boiled it down,” Dan says. “Early on, the real objective would be to boil it down to get sugar, before cane sugar was readily available.”
They also show how pioneers would use a three-kettle system over an open ﬁre. Fresh sap starts in one kettle until evaporated to a certain level and is moved to the middle kettle, while the ﬁrst kettle is replenished. The process is repeated into the ﬁnal kettle where the syrup is perfected.
The Winter in the Woods Festival — formerly known as the Maple Sugar Festival — will be held at Rockwoods Reservation on Saturday, Feb. 1 and will feature the maple sugaring and other winter outdoor activities. Maple sugaring programs also are being offered at Rockwoods on Feb. 15 and Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs on Feb. 22.
Adds Dan: “If you dress warmly and prepare, you can have a lot of fun outdoors in the winter.”
For more information on MDC’s maple sugaring events visit their event calendar at www.mdc.mo.gov/events. For more on maple sugaring at home, including a backyard guide, visit www. nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/activities/maple-sugaring.