Last weekend, Au Pair in America offered a Maple Sugaring Tour at the Belmont Habitat for their Boston area au pairs. In addition to monthly cluster meetings, these monthly regional events give au pairs the chance to participate in culturally relevant activities. Maple Sugaring is an experience very unique to this area, and au pairs in the area are very lucky to be able to experience this as part of their cultural exchange.
Two experienced Habitat guides, Ann and Sandy, gave us a wonderful tour. Au Pairs learned about the characteristics of a sugar maple in order to differentiate it from other trees and other types of maples. (branching pattern, leaf pattern, shape and color of buds) We visited a tapped maple tree and learned that the flow of sap is very close to the outer bark of the tree and its flow gets activated every year in the early months for about 6 weeks, when starch that is stored in the roots converts back to sugar that gets transported up the tree in order to feed the buds. This is brought about by cold nights and warmer days.
We tasted the sap right from the tree, and experienced the transformation of the very slightly sweetened liquid into a syrup that is much sweeter by boiling it in the Habitat’s kitchen. The ration of boiling sap into syrup is 40:1! We also compared that natural syrup to the Aunt Jemima kind and noticed how different the two taste. Upon reading the ingredient list of Aunt Jemima, we concluded that there is nothing natural about the product and has nothing to do with the maple sap. Our tour guides also spoke about the different grades of maple syrup and we found out that the darker the syrup, the later in the season it was harvested and the more maple taste it will have.
The Habitat also has a sugar shack that is not in use any more. This is where the maple sap traditionally gets converted into syrup. Our tour guides showed us the evaporator machine that the farmer used when it was still functional.
At the end of the tour, au pairs answered questions to a quiz to see if they remembered what they learned throughout the tour. We were then rewarded by ice-cream that we covered with Maple Syrup, cranberries and maple cookies.
For more photos of our maple sugaring tour please visit maple sugaring 2012