My Adventure Through Maple Syrup's History at Kortright Centre

Maple Syrup season is here! After years of trying to make it to a Sugarbush festival I finally succeeded! On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my friends and I hopped into the car and headed out to Kortright Centre to learn about and try everything maple they had to offer. If you’ve never been to Kortright Centre I implore you to go, it’s been a staple in my life since before I can remember and is how I first fell in love with the natural world. I was excited to return back to my roots and share in the adventure with my friends.

Upon our arrival we headed into the main building where they were serving pancakes with maple syrup and a gift shop offering a host of maple goodies for purchase as well. It was tempting to just sit down and dig in but the maple demonstrations beckoned us onward and so we continued out the back, down the stairs and to our first stop.

Troth with hot rocks used to make maple syrup

Hot rocks used to turn sweet water into maple syrup.

An official from Kortright Centre stood there with forked branches in hand, picking up hot rocks from the fire and placing them in a hallowed out troth which looked to be holding water. Upon further inspection (and explanation) we discovered that this was how the indigenous people turned “sweet water”, or the maple trees sap, to the more concentrated version of what we know as maple syrup. It was a long process back then, taking a week of round-the-clock work to obtain the smallest amount of syrup. Now, that’s what I call dedication.

We continued down the hill with the crowds of adults and children alike, some munching on the maple lollies they sell at the main building. All along the walk there are facts about maple syrup: how trees are tapped, how much sap it takes to make maple syrup, how it started. There’s also metal buckets nailed to trees, collecting sap from the trees that you can peek into.

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  Some of the info signs that can be found along the route.

The second stop along the path took us to three caldrons set over a fire where three ladies were dressed as if in pioneer times, capes set over their shoulders, frocks well-worn. This is how maple syrup was made by the settlers as they brought more advanced technology with them. By boiling the sweet water in the iron pots it would now only take 3 days to get the maple syrup. Certainly an improvement but still a lot of work and time. At the end of the process the pioneers could use a mould and pack it with crystallized maple sugar. This was then used year round in their cooking or for trading with their neighbours. No cups of sugar here, only bricks!

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At the Pioneer stop they gave out samples of maple syrup. Yumm.

Our final stop along the history of maple syrup was to modern times and the “Sugar Shack”. Here, our wonderfully enthusiastic host invited us into the single room shack to see just how maple is made in modern times, using a machine called an Evaporator. Thanks to this stainless steel wonder it now only takes 24 hours to make maple syrup. It was a relief to her audience to hear. Thank you modern technology!

sugar shack

The Evaporator is used in modern times to make maple syrup

Alas, our adventure through the history of maple syrup had come to an end and so it was time to enjoy the maple syrup we had learned so much about. Back at the main building we purchased some large maple lollipops and maple sugar candies, sat down at one of the tables provided, and got the sugar buzz of a lifetime.

It’s amazing to think of the time and creativity it took to extract such a sugary treat in the past. I know I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the practice, knowing how far it’s come, and a whole new appreciation for maple trees, given what they provide us. When you take a close look at nature there’s some really wonderful surprises to be found.

 

Veronika Kubik

-Engagement and Digital Media Assistant at Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation

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