Tap, collect, boil, bottle, pour, enjoy

For enduring the frigid winter in Wisconsin, we are rewarded with the arrival of spring. The earth greens, crocuses emerge, and the sugar maple trees thaw and their sap flows. As may be a surprise to many, spring is maple syrup's time! Although we love baking and cooking with maple syrup during crisp fall days, it is spring's thaw and freeze cycle that we have to thank for maple syrup.


A tap is in place on a maple tree at Patterson Sugar Bush in Fifield, WI

Maple sugaring is a labor intensive process. Sugar maple trees are tapped when daytime temperatures go above freezing and nighttime temperatures dip below freezing. Once tapped, the watery sap is collected daily whether in metal pales or through tubing systems. The collected sap is then boiled down over a glowing fire of fresh firewood or in a high-tech heated evaporator pan. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to yield just 1 gallon of syrup. We are thankful to have more than 9 Dane County Farmers' Market members who produce maple syrup and bring it to market.


Engel's Sugar Bush of Owen, WI tests their cooker in preparation for the syrup producing season

The Engel family of Engel's Sugar Bush began tapping this year the first week of March. The snow in the woods was well over 3 feet deep, making snowshoes and snowmobiles the only way of getting around. They placed over 4,500 taps in the forest. Travis Engel shared, "The sugaring season is about the camaraderie with family, friends and neighbors. It's been a long and tough winter for all, so to spend some early spring days in the woods is a great relief." Many neighbors of the Engels know to drop by when they see the smoke stacks steaming from evaporated sap.

Tim Patterson of Patterson Sugar Bush shared a very similar sentiment, "After a long winter, I love being in our woods all day tapping our trees, with the sun out and the sap running, you know spring is here!"  The Pattersons' first maple syrup boil was just last week. 


Some of Patterson Sugar Bush maple syrup matures in charred oak barrels that add delicious boozy, smoky flavor

Maple syrup may be typecast as a breakfast food and even a fall food at that, but maple syrup is truly a rich source of local sweetness worthy of any meal all year long. Travis suggests trying a little bit with granola, sweet potatoes, or in your morning coffee. "Use it as a marinade for meats or a splash in baked beans or sweet corn," Travis shared. 

The Patterson family loves using both their maple syrup and maple sugar in new recipes. A recent weekend found them using up a couple of cups of ground cherries frozen from the summer and making a ground cherry coffee cake with both maple syrup and maple sugar. Yum!

Savor local Wisconsin maple syrup in true spring fashion in a delicious vinaigrette for a spinach salad or for that first BBQ of the season with maple cornbread.

Find Engel's Sugar Bush near the corner of E. Main and S. Pinckney and Patterson Sugar Bush on N. Pinckney or East Mifflin at our Saturday Market on the Square!