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Maple Syrup Season

Spring brings a number of outdoor activities to Northern Michigan but one with a culinary connection often ends up on pancakes: making maple syrup. Several weeks in March when the days warm to above freezing but the nights deep below freezing are perfect for making syrup. When Northern Michigan’s many maple trees are adorned with taps and buckets, it is a sure sign of spring.

Tapping the trees typically means a snowshoe hike into the woods. The maple trees are drilled and a spout is placed in the hole with a bucket hanging from the spout. The sap is collected daily.

The sap is then boiled in either an outdoor shed called a sugar shack or over a fire or camp stove- yes, outside. It takes 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup so there is a lot of evaporation. Once the liquid hits 212 degrees F, it can be filtered and then bottled.

The early season syrup, the first sap taken from the trees, is lighter in color and flavor and as the weeks pass, the syrup becomes darker. In the U.S. there are two grades of maple syrup, A and B, with A being lighter while B is the darker syrup. Bakers, for example, might prefer Grade B because it adds a bit more sweetness.

Maple syrup “farms” are a part of Northern Michigan and have been for many years. Several date back three or four generations and farms in Charlevoix and Burt Lake are among the biggest in the state.

If you’re in Northern Michigan in March, don’t miss the maple syrup season. And if you are not Up North in March, visit one of our many farm markets to capture some of this golden liquid of spring.

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