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Maple Sugaring

Environmental Education Center, 190 Lord Stirling Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ • 908 722-1200 Option 2-1

Maple Sugaring
Maple Sugaring
Sampling the Maple Syrup
Glossary of Maple Sugaring Terms


Aproning – A test to check the density of boiling sap. When sap drips off the end of the dipper in sheets, it is "aproning" and is ready to be called syrup. The final test for proper density is done with a glass instrument floated in the syrup - a hydrometer or hydrotherm.

Boil – The temperature at which a substance changes its state from liquid to gas. The boiling point of sap is 219 F. Water boils at 212 F.

Budding – When warmer weather in the late spring causes leaf buds to swell, the syrup takes on a strong molasses flavor. This signals the end of the sugaring season.

Buddy – The popular term used for the objectionable bitter flavor of syrup produced at the end of the sugaring season when the trees begin to bud out.

Doodlebug – A homemade tractor made from old, rusted out cars and/or trucks. top of page

Drill – A tool used to create a hole in the tree. A 3/4 or ½-inch drill bit is used to drill a three-inch deep hole in the trunk of a maple tree. This process is called tapping a tree. top of page

Evaporator Pan – The container used to hold sap during boiling, usually long, flat and shallow. With the use of heat, water is removed (evaporated) to increase the sugar content of sap. A sugaring off pan is the last evaporator pan used to boil off water to make maple syrup. top of page

Filtering – The process of clarifying pure maple syrup. Raw syrup contains various suspended particles (called "sugar sand') brought out in the boiling process. In earlier days, these particles were "settled out" in bulk containers before retail packaging. Today we filter through cloth and paper membranes, producing crystal clear syrup. top of page

Freeze – To change a substance from a liquid to a solid state by cooling. Water freezes at 32 F or 0 C. The sap in a tree begins to flow when temperatures outside rise above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. top of page

Frog Run – Folk designation for the last sap run of the season. So called because frogs begin to be heard at night during the warm finale to the sugaring season. top of page

Gagoose – A simple cone of birch bark used to hold maple candy in colonial Canada. top of page

Gallon – A liquid unit of measure equal to 4 quarts. On average it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. top of page

Gathering – The process of collecting and moving the sap from the maple tree to the sugarhouse. top of page

Grading – USDA Grade A light, medium and dark amber are considered table grades. USDA Grade B is a dark, strong flavored syrup often used in cooking, though some prefer it for table use as well. All are the same density. Lighter syrup has a more delicate flavor; darker is more "mapley." Medium and dark amber are most widely available. Light amber, used for maple candy and maple cream, is made early in the season; Grade B is made late. top of page

Indian Sugar – Granulated maple sugar made by heating maple syrup to about 260 degrees F, at which point the molten sugar is taken from the heat and stirred continuously until large, light-brown granules form. top of page

Keelers – 19th century wooden sap buckets popular in Pennsylvania. Keelers were larger at the bottom than at the top and were meant to rest on the ground beneath the sap spouts.

Kokh – The Eastern Woodland Native American term for a clay pottery vessel. top of page

Maple Candy – Made by boiling the maple syrup to 237 degrees F, cooling it to 155 degrees F, stirring and pouring it into molds for hardening. Pure maple candy is made from maple syrup only. Blended maple candy contains corn or cane sugars in addition to maple. top of page

Maple Cream or Soft Sugar –- A table spread with the consistency of peanut butter. Made by boiling syrup to a slightly lower temperature than that for maple candy (234 degrees F), then cooling to about 70 degrees F and stirring to whip air into the thickening mass. Maple cream is also known as Maple Butter. top of page

Maple Moon or Sugar Moon – The Native American designation for the sugaring season, the month of the freezing nights and warm days usually coinciding with March. top of page

Maple Sugar – Pure maple sugar made from maple syrup. top of page

Maple Syrup – The concentrate made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Sap flows for approximately 6 weeks in the spring, is collected and concentrated into syrup by boiling to a point 7 degrees F above the boiling point of water (approximately 219 degrees F). top of page

Michtan – The Native American term for the maple tree. top of page

Mokuk – A Native American basket or container made from birch bark with a large base and a narrow top opening used for holding hard or granulated sugar. top of page

Moqua – The wife of Woksis and legendary Native American woman of the Eastern Woodlands who substituted sap for water in her cooking pot and thus discovered maple syrup. top of page

Photosynthesis – The process by which green plants (leaves) convert carbon dioxide and water into simple sugar. Chlorophyll and sunlight are essential to this process. top of page

Roots – The underground part of the tree. The three main functions of roots are to 1) anchor the tree, 2) absorb water and minerals from the soil and 3) store food. Sap is stored in the roots during the winter so it does not freeze in the trunk of the tree. top of page

Samara or Key – The paired, winged fruit of the maple tree. top of page

Sap - A watery solution (food) that circulates through the tree's sapwood. In maple trees, the sap usually contains 2-3% sugar but may go as high as 10%. top of page

Sap Bucket or Pail – A container made from wood, metal, or plastic hung on a spile to collect sap from a maple tree. top of page

Sap Run – A flow of sap, usually during the daylight hours of one day. top of page

Sap Yoke - A device worn over the shoulders with a bucket hanging from each side to gather sap from the buckets on the trees. The sap was then poured in a tank mounted on a sled or trailer. The tank was and/or is towed by oxen, horses, tractors, trucks, doodlebugs, snowmobiles, or humans. top of page

Sapwood - The most recently formed layer of wood (not visible). Sapwood is made of thick-walled cells that transport water and minerals through the tree (similar to our circulatory system). top of page

Scum – Waste foam that naturally rises and is constantly skimmed away by the sugarmaker when the sap is boiled. top of page

Sheesheegummawis – Ojibwa for sugar maple tree (“sap flows freely”). top of page

Shelf Life/Storage – Unopened containers of pure maple syrup may be left in a cool dark place for 6-12 months without refrigeration. After opening, syrup should be refrigerated. Freezer storage keeps open or unopened containers indefinitely, and the liquid does not solidify. Any harmless mold that forms on the surface of opened syrup may be skimmed off, and the product may be used after reheating to 190 degrees F. Place reheated syrup in new, airtight containers. top of page

Sinzibukwud – Algonquin term for maple sugar. top of page

Spile or Spout – A tubular device inserted (tapped) into a tree to drain sap. Possible variation of the early settlers term “spills”, or carved wooden sap pipes. top of page

Sugar Arch – The assembly of evaporator pan, firebox, and smokestack used to reduce maple sap to maple syrup. top of page

Sugarbush – The maple stand or grove where trees are tapped and sap collected. A sugarbush is measured not by the number of maple trees, but by the number of spouts or taps set. Some old maples drip sap from as many as four spouts. Young trees (at least 40 years old) only have one tap. In either case, each tap yields about 10 gallons of sap over the whole season, which makes about one quart of syrup. top of page

Sugar Content – The amount of sugar per amount of sap. top of page

Sugarhouse – The rustic building where boiling the sap into syrup takes place. A sugarhouse is sometimes referred to as a “sugarshack”. top of page

Sugaring – The process of producing maple syrup. top of page

Sugar Loaf – Hardened maple sugar molded into a cake or cone. top of page

Sugar On Snow (Jack Wax) – The ultimate delicacy! A sticky, taffy-like treat made by thickening syrup on a stove and immediately pouring it on fresh snow or ice crystals and eaten with a fork. A pickle is eaten between servings! top of page

Sugar Sand or Nitre – A harmless, fine, gritty precipitate that commonly forms as syrup is being made or in containers of unfiltered syrup. top of page

Sugaring Time (Season) – Occurs in early spring when days are 35-45 degrees and nights are below freezing. When several of these days occur in succession, sap begins to flow. When nighttime temperatures remain above freezing and days warm into the 50's, the trees begin to bud and the season ends. top of page

Sweet Trees –- Not all sugar maple trees are equal. Some have sweeter sap than their neighbors. It takes fewer gallons of this sweet sap to make a gallon of syrup. Efforts to genetically predict (and reproduce) sweet trees have met with some success. top of page

Tapping – The first step in sugaring, when 7/16" diameter holes are drilled about 3" deep into maple tree trunks. Many old trees have been tapped in this way for 75 or more years. top of page

Trunk – The trunk provides support and carries food (sap) and oxygen throughout the tree. The part of the tree that is tapped to get the sap. top of page

Tub Sugar or Hard Maple Sugar – Very dense, caked sugar made by heating maple syrup to 248 degree F, stirring while hot, then pouring into a mold or storage container. This was a common maple product up to the end of the 1800s, when syrup became a more valuable commodity. It is rarely made today. top of page

Tubing/Pipeline – Increasingly used in hillside sugarbushes, flexible plastic tubing conveys the sap directly from each tree to holding tanks. Popularized in the 1970s and 1980s as a laborsaving replacement for gathering by hand. Some lines are a mile or more long and may connect 500 or more taps to a single tank. top of page

Woksis – The legendary Native American hunter of the Eastern Woodlands who first tasted maple syrup accidentally made by his wife, Moqua. top of page

Please click on the following links for more information on maple sugaring:

Maple Sugaring Home
Boiling Down
Gathering The Sap
History of Maple Sugaring
Is It Syrup Yet?
Maple Activities
Maple Recipes
Sugar Bush
Word Search (pdf file)
Word Search Answer Key (pdf file)
Multiple Choice Questions

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