Festival focuses on art of making maple syrup

February 26, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

CLEAR SPRING - The next time they eat pancakes, they will remember how hard it was to make the syrup, said John Evans, a volunteer at Saturday's Maple Sugar Festival at the Fairview Outdoor Education Center.

Evans, a staff member at the center, held the auger drill steady while Tanner Minnick, 7, of Smithsburg, turned the handle.

Tanner was drilling a small hole into a trunk, which simulated a maple tree. He later would insert a "spile," which is a stubby wooden straw that would permit the sap to flow through the tree and into a bucket.


The exercise was among several activities at the Maple Sugar Festival.

"It's more of a heritage thing so that these kids can see how far we've progressed," Evans said.

The festival featured children's and family activities such as face painting and leaf print making. Visitors also got an opportunity to see how maple syrup was made.

Maple trees start producing sap in the late winter or early spring, when "things start waking up," said volunteer Dennis Hansford, a clinical microbiologist.

The process lasts about a month, Hansford said.

Several maple trees on the grounds were tapped for sap on Saturday. The sap, which looked and tasted a little like sugar water, slowly trickled from the trees into two-gallon buckets.

The liquid then was heated, or reduced, to become syrup.

"They could take this home and put it in their backyard and do the same thing," said Pearle Howell, a Fairview staffer.

Volunteer Chuck Bowler stood before a huge kettle pot, where the sap was reduced to syrup.

Bowler, a science teacher in Middletown, Md., said candy made from maple sugar might be too much for even the worst "sugarholic."

Once reduced, maple syrup is about 66 percent sugar. Corn syrup is the most common sweetener, Bowler said, though its taste is more starchy than sugary.

Store-bought syrups generally have more corn syrup than maple syrup.

"And if they do have maple syrup, it's generally not enough for you to taste the difference," Bowler said.

It would take at least 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup, said volunteer Fred Cornett, who has his own tree farm.

Back at the spile station, Tanner finally had finished drilling and was looking for the right spile.

Tanner said he knew that maple syrup came from trees, but said the activities, particularly the drilling, had taught him a few things he didn't know.

"I never knew it was so hard to get stuff out of wood," Tanner said.

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