As we come to the end of February, our household is buzzing with the excitement of the Muskoka Maple Syrup Season. It’s a time when the kids come home, friends come around and everyone enjoys warmer lakeside days while the Maple sap boils off.
About 80% of the world’s supply of Maple syrup comes from Canada, with the maple season running from about mid-February to mid-March. Generally once the sap starts flowing it lasts from 4-6 weeks. As a rule of thumb, tapping begins when the daytime temperatures are consistently above 0, and nighttime temperatures still fall below freezing.
Our family taps about 12 Maples on our property. Selected for size, and when they were last tapped, generally trees that receive the greatest sunlight are selected. As a rule of thumb, trees with a diameter of about 26 cm receive a single tap, while those over 60 cm receive up to 3 taps, no closer than 6 inches from previous holes. The ideal spot for the tap is above a large root or below a large branch. Carefully measured holes are drilled at about waist height (depending on the depth of the snow) for easy collection. One thing we are sure to consider is how high the buckets will be once all the snow is gone!
Weekends are a happy and relaxing adventure during Maple syrup season. The kids all arrive home, a nice size fire is lit, and once the buckets are collected, the Muskoka chairs come out, and everyone gathers around to “boil” the sap. It’s a wonderful family time, which more often than not includes many friends, and s’mores. Boiling the sap can take quite a long time. For every 40 liters of sap collected, the result is about one liter of syrup. This boiling down is not something that you would consider doing in the house as vast amounts of water is boiled off during the process. From the 12 trees we tap, we often have enough syrup to last our family until next Maple syrup season, with everyone who drops in taking home a small jar as well.
Maple season comes to an end once the buds on the trees begin to form, as collecting sap after often results in a bitter taste. While its bitter sweet to see the end of the sap season, we know that in just a few short weeks our dock will be filled with love and laughter as our family enjoys the next Muskoka season – summer!