When we were kids one of our favorite late winter, early spring treats was Jack Wax. Jack Wax is made from Maple syrup. We had to gather nice, clean snow; you don’t want dirt in your snack. It was much easier to set a pan on the porch and let the falling snow fill it up. However, Mother Nature does not always cooperate and sometimes we had to dig under the top crust to find clean snow. While we were outside our Mom would boil the Maple syrup to make it thicker, probably to the soft candy stage. When the syrup was just the right consistency, Mom would pour it in squiggly patterns on the pan of snow. We had to wait for it to cool, the hardest part, and then with tooth picks we got to pick up pieces of the maple candy.
The Maple Sugaring Season has started here in upstate New York. The nights are below freezing and the days are warm, so the sap travels up from the roots and back down again. There are commercial operations in our area that make Maple Syrup to sell. They have sugar houses with huge vats to boil the sap into syrup. There are also many hobbyists that gather sap and boil it down for their own use.
My Dad and brothers were hobbyists for a season. We were all very excited that they were going to make us Maple Syrup. They tapped some trees and gathered buckets of sap. They started a fire in our little fire pit in the back yard and put a huge pan on the grate to start boiling the sap. It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. That’s a whole lot of time to spend feeding a fire and adding sap to the pan. There was also the nuisance of the ash that kept falling into the pan. My Dad did most of the actual work; my brothers got bored with watching the sap boil and ran off to play with their friends.
Now that I know how much time goes into making Maple Syrup, I appreciate the farmers that spend the early spring sugaring! Pure Maple Syrup is the best and it makes the best Jack Wax!