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Monday, March 19, 2012

Maple Sugaring Tour at Mass. Audubon

A few weekends ago, the three of us piled into Lyn's Suzuki bound for a maple sugaring tour at the Mass. Audubon Sanctuary in Ipswich. Because of our unseasonably warm winter, several other maple syrup shacks were not collecting sap this year, but the guides at Audubon told us they'd had a good season despite the low sugar content. They'd managed to collect quite a bit of sap, which is a very good thing considering that most sap is about 98-99% water, so you need gallons and gallons of sap to produce each container of syrup. (Below you'll see the metal cover that prevents animals or debris from falling into the collection bucket.)

True to my city girl tendencies, I wore ballet flats. Not the type of footwear that you want for traipsing around a muddy wildlife sanctuary, so fortunately, another member of our tour group leant me a spare pair of boots. (We also did not get the memo about wearing corduroy pants, but I was plenty warm in my down jacket.)

Fashion faux pas aside, our guide offered a thorough explanation of how sap is tapped and turned into maple syrup, how to identify maple trees, and more. The kids in the group especially enjoyed the hands-on demonstration about the symmetry of maple trees and how they're tapped.

Last stop on the tour was the sugar shack, where they carefully boil the sap to ensure the correct sugar content. The sweet aroma of warm maple syrup permeating that tiny structure made us giddy to try the finished product (see above and below).

And, of course, we bought maple syrup and stopped at Depot Diner for pancakes on the way home. I used to be perfectly happy eating French toast with sugar-free "maple syrup" from the grocery store but after tasting the real thing on this excursion, it would be hard to go back.

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