One of the best things about spring for my money is that it’s the one time of year that you can make maple syrup! Michigan ranks 5th in the US in maple syrup production, and the Michigan Maple Syrup Producers Association has a page about the history of maple syrup production that shows we’ve been a maple syrup player for a long time:
Native Americans have many wonderful stories about how they began making maple syrup. The first is the legend of Glooskap. Many, many, many years ago the Creator had made life much easier for man. In fact, in those days the maple tree was filed with syrup and all man had to do was cut a hole in the maple tree and the syrup dripped out. One day the young prince Glooskap (known by other names in other tribes) came upon a village of his people that was strangely silent. There were no dogs barking, no children playing, no women minding the cook fires, and no men getting ready to go hunting! Glooskap looked and looked and finally found everyone in the nearby maple grove. They were all lying at the bases of the trees and letting the sweet syrup drip into their mouths. Even the dogs were enjoying the syrup. “Get up, you people,” Glooskap called. “There is work to be done!” But no-one moved.
Now Glooskap had special powers, and he used these powers to make a large bark container. He flew to the lake, filled the container with water and flew back to the maple grove. When he poured the water over the trees it diluted the syrup so it was no longer sweet. ”Now, get up you people! Because you have been so lazy the trees no longer hold syrup, but only sap. Now you will have to work for your syrup by boiling the sap. What’s more, the sap will soon run dry. You will only be able to make syrup in the early spring of the year!”
…The Chippewas and Ottawas of Michigan tell a similar story of the god NenawBozhoo, who cast a spell on the sugar maple tree many moons ago, turning the near pure syrup into what is now called sap. He did this because he loved his people and feared they would become indolent and destroy themselves if nature’s gifts were given too freely. This legend is unique in that, in various forms, it can be found almost universally throughout the Eastern Woodland Indian tribes. This is unusual for cultures that did not have a written history.
Read on for more about how the process and techniques have evolved through the years. Michigan in Pictures has a ton of photos documenting the process of making maple syrup. that you’ll want to check out as well!