My sister currently lives in Wisconsin, a place I don’t ordinarily associate with maple syrup. She recently went to “Maple Syrup Sunday” at Ledge View Park, and here’s what she had to say about it (all photos are by her as well):
Wisconsin has a number of very unique food experiences, including maple syrup harvesting in late March through early April. Last Sunday, Ledge View Park in Calumet County, WI (website here) had their annual Maple Syrup Sunday.
Maple sap flows when the temperature dips to below freezing at night, but climbs above freezing during the day. Central Wisconsin at this time of year is ideal for maple sap flow, although not as pleasant to it’s residents who want spring to arrive earlier.
Ledge View park has caves, trails for cross-country skiing or snow shoeing, as well as the maple tree. We arrived around 9:30 to get a ticket for the pancake breakfast and a bottle of Pure Maple Syrup each costing six dollars. All proceeds go to the park and the event is run by volunteers. First, we had a wonderful pancake breakfast with ham for those who eat meat, and ice cream with maple syrup on top (an additional 50 cents) in case you didn’t have enough sugar.
Re-enactors of frontiers people and trappers were walking about and giving tours on the Native American’s discovery of maple syrup. Then we went into the woods with buckets and were taught how the tree tapping works. First step: identify a maple tree, ideally one more than 10 inches in diameter. This is harder than it seems as there are no leaves on the trees, the bark of the maple is not unique and most branches of larger trees are so high up you can’t see the twigs that grow opposite each other. Apparently the easiest thing to do is to look for a tree that had been tapped in a previous year. Once the tree is found you drill a hole at a slight angle, clean out the hole, tap in a spout, attach a bag or bucket and wait (or do what we did which is to go to a tree that had been tapped the day before and gather that sap).
The sap is clear and tastes like slightly sweet water. Bugs are attracted to this sap, so the sap we gathered had to be strained. It then sits for a few days and gets a little cloudy. Then it is boiled down and down and down. About 43 gallons of sap make up one gallon of maple syrup, which explains why pure maple syrup is so expensive and tasty.