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It’s maple syrup season in the D! Here’s how they make it

This simple recipe takes a lot of work

Bloomfield Hills – On a chilly morning, when you are stuck at home, a great way to warm yourself up is to indulge in a stack of fluffy pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Now you probably made the pancakes, but have you ever wondered how they make the maple syrup? I’m not talking about one of those syrups whose main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, I’m talking about the real deal, straight from the trees.

Well, I definitely wondered how it was done, so I went out to the E.L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Hills to see how they make it. Turns out this time of year, late winter to early spring, is when all the magic happens.

After the weather begins to warm and everything starts to thaw out, the tree sap starts flowing again. To get the sap out, they drill into the sugar maple trees at a slight upward angle and insert a hollow tube they call a spile. A bucket is then hung off of the spile to collect the sap, and they cover it with a lid to keep other things out. Once the bucket is full, which can take anywhere from 6 hours to a couple of days, they carry it to a holding tank outside the Sugar Shack.

Inside the Sugar Shack, the sap is heated up, boiling out all the excess water. There are several chambers it travels though in this process, with each consecutive chamber containing more and more syrup-like liquid.

While the process may sound simple, it is actually a lot of work. To get one gallon of maple syrup it requires 40 buckets of sap; that is an extremely small yield. To put it in perspective, in one year they collected about 1,000 gallons of sap and only made 25 gallons of syrup.

To test and make sure the syrup is ready, they look to see how it drips off of a scoop. Real maple syrup is not as thick as the stuff made with high fructose corn syrup, but it is still sticky, and will drip more slowly than water.

The syrup then goes through two cloth filters into a final bucket where it is ready to be packaged and put on your fluffy pancakes.

For more information on how they make maple syrup, contact the E.L. Johnson Nature center either online or by phone at 248-433-0885.


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