Local residents including families with children came to the Outdoor Discovery Center, part of the Environmental Learning Center at Crooked Creek State Park, on Sunday afternoon to learn how to extract sap from maple trees.
Andy Kinter has taught the art of collecting maple sap from trees to make into syrup for the last ten years at the Environmental Learning Center. It is a hobby he does on his Indiana County farm called “maple sugaring”.
Tapping trees for sap has a limited time when it can be done each year, Kinter said.
“You are able to extract the sap whenever days get above freezing in the daytime but still freeze at night. When it stops freezing, the sap will stop flowing. In our area, the time to tap a tree is from mid-February till the end of March. It’s anywhere from a four- to six-week window.”
Once the sap is extracted, there is still a process before it can be consumed.
“You boil the sap to remove the excess water and caramelize the sugar through the high temperature. That creates the color and the maple flavor through the boiling process.”
Kinter said no sugar is added in the process.
“It is completely natural. Nothing is added to it. It’s just the sap. It’s about one-and-a-half percent sugar from the tree and 67 percent sugar when it is syrup ready to eat.”
Kinter says he taps approximately 800 maple trees on his farm, but very few people in our area are involved in the process to that degree.
“Many people will try it with five trees or even ten trees on their property,” Kinter said. However, the production from just a few trees is minimal.
“Every tree is different. A good tree might get three gallons of sap on an ideal day. It takes about 60 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Over the course of an average season, we will make between a pint to less than a half gallon of syrup per tree.”
Kinter took approximately 25 individuals in attendance to maple trees outside the ELC. He drilled into the tree approximately one-and-a-half inches and almost immediately the sap began to ooze out from the hole.
“That is happening because it was below freezing last night, but today the temperature is above freezing. Although it is snowing, it is a perfect time.”
A plastic nozzle was tapped into the hole. The nozzle was connected to a hose that extended down into a hole in the side of a container.
“We keep a lid on the container so no water gets into it,” Kinter explained.
Kinter also had a PowerPoint presentation inside the building to explain the history and process of maple sugaring.
Dale Enders is a neighbor and enjoys having the Environmental Learning Center in his back yard.
“It’s been a multi-use facility down through the years,” Enders said. “They have held many events that we have attended. You can learn from university students or different people who have supported the Environmental Learning Center about our environment and the wildlife that is in this area.”