St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Been preparing for an all new old talk-- history of maple sugar/syrup making in North America. I have done this before, but this time decided to spend more time trying to understand the earliest methods and the evolution of the process to where we are today. 

Personally, we are sort of stuck in the 1940s method of syruping--buckets, flat pan, wood fire, and 1948 tractor to collect sap.  However, it is fun to look at the current high-tech methods too as well as to look at the earliest techniques. 

One of the questions that needs to be answered is what level of making maple sugar existed before the traders brought metal kettles to Native Americans that made boiling syrup easy as compared to the hot stones in a trough and the other limited quantity techniques. 

The question of Native Americans teaching the new European settlers how to do it is also uncertain.  Northern Europeans (Scandinavia, Scottish...) already tapped birch trees before they ever came to America, so undoubtedly the techniques they brought to America (metal tools, wooden buckets, metal kettles etc.) we already well known.  

Lots of information available, but not much from pre-1700s accounts.   One very early trader said an old Native American told him that they had been making sugar as long as his father remembered -- long before settlers came. 

A Canadian researcher stated that the quantity of sugar was very limited--mostly a drink, a cooking liquid and some sugar made.  Of course that is pure speculation with a little history included.  He also said that maple water was used for an eye wash in the smokey homes.  

If you want to hear what I have uncovered, the meeting is Thursday, Jan 28, 7 pm at the Luck Museum.  I look forward to the Maple season getting underway in a month or so--it says winter is gone.  Saturday, Jan 30 in Luck at the DBS hall, is another maple syrup program where beginners can learn how to start, and the rest of to see what is happening with each other's plans for this spring. 

An old Hanson photo from Selden Hanson's Dad of maple syruping in Maple Grove Township, Barron County, WI.  We think this is one of Grandpa Hanson's brothers on the right, but not sure which one. Maybe Lote or George.