You probably don’t associate New Jersey with maple syrup, but believe it or not, our maple trees can produce syrup just as tasty as Vermont’s maples can. To be honest, I haven’t verified that statement with any maple syrup experts. However, Luke, Leah, and I tried New Jersey’s maple syrup for New Experience #8, and we thought it was just as tasty as the jug I bought at Costco last year.
On Saturday, we went to the Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey for a maple sugaring demonstration.
We got to the center at 9:30 a.m., and our car’s dashboard told us it was 34 degrees outside. None of us love the cold, but the thought of fresh maple syrup lured us outside.
We hiked half a mile on a very muddy trail to get to the sugar shack. There we met our leader, Rich, who gave a surprisingly funny and informative history of maple sugaring.
During the 90 minute presentation, he led our rather large group through 4 stations. The first one showed us how the Lenape, the Native Americans who once lived in New Jersey, tapped maple trees and used the sugar for cooking and eating.
The next station showed us how early settlers tapped the trees and used a clever balance to boil off the water of the maple sugar.
The third station showed us how maple sugaring was done in the early 20th century, using taps that would not kill the trees.
Finally, the last station demonstrated the modern way of harvesting the maple sugar, which is really not too different from the other times in history.
Our favorite part of the demonstration was when the kids were invited to stick their tongues under the tap and catch some of the maple sap on their tongues. I really wanted to try it, too, but there was a line of children waiting for a turn. Luke and Leah told me I didn’t miss much. It tasted like water to them. Luke showed me he really understood the presentation when he said, “Mom, it only tastes like water because you have to boil it and boil it for hours until it turns to syrup. It’s mostly just water now.”
We were given a small sample of maple syrup back at the sugar shack, so I did get to satisfy my sweet tooth after all.
On the hike back to the car, Leah said she liked the demonstration but would have liked it a lot better if it were inside. It was too cold outside for her. Luke laughed and said it would be too hard to bring all those trees inside. We all chuckled at the thought, and decided it was worth braving the cold for some sweet syrup.
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