History of Maple Sugaring
By Jack Michael and Cam
The Maple Sugaring industry is huge. It dominates the shelves of Canadian and American supermarkets. Canada, the leading maple syrup producer, produces 27 million liters of maple syrup a year. Canada makes over 75% of the world’s maple syrup supply, most of which comes from Quebec. Creating maple syrup is a very advanced occupation. It has many different technologies to create the best tasting syrup in the least amount of time. But before this, it was not the case.
It is not completely known who first found maple sugar, but it has been guessed that the people living in the northeastern part of North America first discovered it. It isn’t known when it was discovered, but it is thought to be hundreds of years before the European settlers came over. There are lots of different legends about how maple syrup was discovered, but most of them revolve around a person who substituted sap for water and cooked venison or some meat with it. When they cooked it, it boiled off the water and left the syrup that coated the meat. There are many sugar-making rituals and traditions that take place before the sugar harvest. Some of them are dances, such as the Maple Dance on the first full moon of the spring. The first full moon of the spring is called the Sugar Moon, not to be confused with the sugar bush (a plantation of maples). Another legend is related to the Earth Mother, Kokomis, who made the first maple syrup. Now Kokomis made a hole in a tree and maple syrup poured out. However, her grandson, Manabush, was worried that if the sweet gift of the maple tree was so easily obtained, the Indians might become shirtless and lazy. So he showered the top of the sugar maple with water, thus diluting the maple syrup into sap.
Algonquin tribes used stone tools that make a v-shaped incision in the trunks of the trees, and then they would insert birch bark tubes into the tree. On the tubes, they would hang birch bark buckets. They used hollowed out tree trunks filled with hot stones to boil the sap into syrup. Another way you can turn sap into syrup is to let the sap freeze over and the take the top layer away that would be frozen water. All that remains is concentrated maple sap.
The European settlers learned how to tap trees from the indigenous people, but as time went on they started to mass-produce it and the ways of the native people are, for the most part, gone. They started to make contraptions that could cook boil sap faster and they would tap trees faster. It wasn't a small operation anymore, it was very commercial.
Many people enjoy Maple Syrup. Not just as a food but as a occupation and a hobby. But all this joy that has come from Maple Syrup, is all thanks to the innovativeness and intelligence of the ancient Native Americans of North Eastern America.