by Rollin K. De Larm
Written circa 1975, Transcribed by Patricia A. De Larm
Date Last Updated: 12/10/2006
I can remember back seventy years ago when my father first made maple syrup.
Holes were bored in the trees and wooden spouts were driven in. Buckets were then placed to catch the sap as it ran from the trees. This sap was gathered in pails and carried to a large iron kettle where it was boiled down to syrup.
A few years later my father made an arch and used a flat pan about six inches deep and three and a half feet wide by seven feet long. This method of boiling made very dark syrup.
Sometime after this, he bought an evaporator and built a good sugar house. He tapped many, many more trees then. To gather the sap he now used horses and a four barrel tank fastened to a wood shod sled. This way of boiling the sap made very much lighter colored syrup.
Prices were very poor in those days and my father got only one dollar per gallon for syrup and eight or ten cents a pound for maple sugar about 60 years ago. It takes one gallon of syrup to make eight pounds of sugar and it takes two and a half to three barrels of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
The last of February and the first of March marked the time for bringing in the sap buckets from the sugar house to be washed. Then the storage tanks and evaporator had to be cleaned. We used metal sap spouts and they also had to be washed.
When it was time to tap the trees and start to make syrup and sugar, weather played a great part in the sugar business. Warm days and freezing nights are needed for the sap to run. Sap will run whether there is snow on the ground or not.
About 55 years ago, I started making syrup. I bought one of the new big evaporators from G. H. Grim and Co. and 1800 galvanized 16 qt buckets with covers. We also had new improved spouts.
The quicker the sap can be boiled into syrup, the lighter the syrup will be. The sap season lasts about five weeks. When the weather gets quite warm the latter part of April, the syrup will get darker and soon the trees stop running.
During a good run, we were very busy gathering the sap and keeping the evaporator at top speed. This requires a great deal of wood. I used from 25 to 30 cords of 4 foot wood every year. This had to be cut and gotten ready for the coming year ahead.
When the syrup tested the right thickness it was drawn from the evaporator and run through felt strainers and poured into a 60 gallon settling tank. This process takes out a fine sand which comes from the trees. Itís called sugar sand. The next process is the canning of the syrup and making sugar.
Maple syrup has to weigh 11 pounds per gallon net. Our sugar was made mostly into hard cakes. This required the syrup to be boiled down quite a bit more in a large pan in the house. A sugar thermometer is inserted in the pan and when the right degree is reached, the pan is taken of f the stove and the syrup is stirred with a large wooden ladle until it is nearly cold. Then the sugar is put into molds to harden. Our molds held 50 half pound cakes and 50 pound cakes. For several years we made about 2500 pounds of these small sugar cakes and shipped them away to a merchant down at Catskill. We received 25 cents a pound for this sugar.
Our syrup was sold in gallon cans locally as we had orders and the majority went in 60 gallon drums to wholesalers.
I have made as much as 650 gallons of syrup in a season.
Syrup has sold as low as 65 cents a gallon in barrels and as high as $2.50 per gallon. This depended on grade and color.
The last sugar that we sold we got a dollar a pound and syrup was $5 - $6 a gallon.
Sixty years ago there were twenty five families making syrup in this town. At this time of the year, rural people didnít have other work to do and besides having what syrup they wanted for their families, they made quite a bit of extra money.
The big syrup companies no longer gather the sap by horses from the trees to the storage tank. Also plastic buckets replace the old metal ones.
Fancy candy and maple creams are now a big part of the maple sugar industry.
One enjoyable part of the sugaring season of long ago was the sugar parties. Big pans of snow were gathered and hot maple syrup of sugar consistency was poured over the snow in small spoonfuls and eaten with a fork. This was a delight to all. We called it Jack Wax.
Names of people that made syrup 45 years ago:
J. J. Wilson
Will De Larm
Rollin K. De Larm
©2006, Bruce De Larm. These records are protected by copyright laws
and may not be copied or reproduced without permission.