The Sugar Maple

by Unknown

The Sugar Maple belongs to the same family of trees as our common maple and sycamore. It grows in Canada and the northern parts of the United States. Most of the maples contain a large amount of juice, which flows freely when the stem of the tree is cut. In the Sugar Maple this juice is very abundant, and so sweet that the Indians and settlers obtain large quantities of sugar from it.

In the month of March, when the sap begins to ascend in the tree, the sugar-makers build temporary sheds in or near the woods. They first tap the trees by boring a hole, from one to two inches deep, into the stem of each maple. A short tube is inserted into the hole, and the sap of the tree flows through it, and is caught in a pail or trough placed at the foot of the tree. The amount of sap which each tree yields varies considerably, but the average is from two to three gallons each day. It is said that some trees have yielded the enormous amount of twenty gallons in one day, while sometimes, on the other hand, the quantity is not more than a pint. The trees, which grow in small clumps, and thus obtain more light and air, are more profitable as sugar-producers than those which grow in forests. The maple-sap continues to flow from the tree for about six weeks.

From time to time the Indians, or settlers, collect the contents of the various vessels placed against the trees, and empty the juice into large kettles, which hold from fifteen to twenty gallons each. One man can usually attend to two or three hundred trees in this way, if they are not too far apart. The juice in the kettles is boiled over fires until the sugar begins to form into solid crystals. Sometimes milk, or white of eggs, is added to the juice, in order to separate the impurities, which rise to the surface, and are skimmed off with a ladle. The whole operation is very simple and rough, when compared with the great care which is given to the manufacture of sugar from the sugar-cane; the sugar obtained from the maple, though not so pure, is the same in kind as cane-sugar. The juice from the maple must be boiled within about twenty-four hours after it has flowed from the tree. If kept longer than this it begins to ferment, and quickly spoils. A good maple will yield sufficient sap to make about four pounds of sugar every year.