My interest in maple syrup started in my high school anthropology class when we watched a lengthy, black and white, film documentary about maple syrup production in the northeast U.S. I’m not sure why I thought the production was reserved only to that area and Canada. We have plenty of maple trees around.
Apparently people here have been thinking the same thing. Over the past few years, Kentucky maple syrup has been stocking shelves of local food markets right next to sorghum and honey.
This morning we headed out the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a historic attraction in nearby Harrodsburg, Kentucky. What is a tourist attraction today was a site where the Shaker community once lived. Roads and buildings have been preserved and turned into education centers, shops, and museums.
Animals are kept on site and represent specialty breeds owned by the Shakers. Milking Shorthorn Cattle are one example, and we were told this trip that with over 300 head, the Shakers once owned the largest herd in the US.
There is an inn on site as well as a restaurant, and that is the reason we made the visit this weekend. The special Maple Syrup Breakfast to be exact. We were able to dine on a breakfast buffet of pancakes, cornmeal cakes, bacon, sausage, and fried apples. Served alongside was maple syrup made on site. After breakfast, it was time to learn about the syrup making process.
Trees were tapped all along the paths within the village. According to our guide, sugar maples and black maples make the best syrup, and those were the trees we saw strapped with buckets.
I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. This means that the sap is about 3-5% sugar. Weather plays a role in yield and in sugar content. Ideal temperature is 40 F degree days and 20 F degree nights, and we haven’t had many of those in Kentucky this winter.
We were able to watch the process in the wood burning evaporator. The sap goes into the top metal box, and is drained through the spout.
Then it is boiled, and boiled, and boiled until liquid is evaporated and the sugar syrup remains.
I still hope to see the process in person in the northeast someday, but for now I’m content with adding maple syrup to my list of local foods.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes using Kentucky maple syrup.
Lori Rice is a freelance writer, recipe developer, food photographer and nutritionist. Fake Food Free is a creative outlet that allows her to connect with people from around the world who share a love of travel, food culture and cooking.