Nature Matters: Traditional maple syrup tips

By KBJR News 1

March 31, 2014 Updated Mar 31, 2014 at 6:52 PM CDT

Sawyer, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Spring always seems to sneak into the Northland very tentatively most years and this year is no exception.

There are signs in the woods the season is trying to change, though, and our region's native people know that makes it maple harvesting season. The seasons dominate the lives of the Anishinabe.

"It's living your life with the seasons. Each season has its own activity. This is the spring activity." said Jim Northrup.

Maple syrup and maple candy are staples and treats for the Anishinabe.
Fond Du Lac elder Jim Northrup knows from years of experience and heritage what to look for to know the time is right.

"The ways the trees heat from the sun and they melt a collar around the bottom and the return of the crows. The temperature, of course, above 32 during the day and below 32 at night." said Northrup.

The first step in tapping maple trees the traditional way is to use wooden taps. They swell and seal better than factory ones.

"Get some maple and make an offering of thanks to the Creator for the gift of maple and then cut to length, about a hand length and then drill a hole through the center and carve it down." said Northrup.

Once the sap is gathered, the whole Northrup family springs into action for the processing over a wood stoked fire.

"Oh, yeah! We all have our duties around here in every season making a fire and keeping the fire going." said son Aaron Northrup.

The Northrups say the wood smoke adds a subtle, natural flavor to this traditional treat of the Northwoods generation after generation.

"Jim Northrup's children tell us they will indeed continue the Anishinabe tradition of maple syruping even after Jim finally retires." said Dave Anderson in Sawyer.

"It's a great experience and I look forward to teaching my son as he gets older." said nephew and honorary son, Kris Beaulieu.

Maple syrup can be enjoyed in a variety ways, if you have a favorite recipe that calls for some of the sweet stuff, we'd love to have you share it here on our website in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Also, you can see some more maple syrup recipes by clicking here and here.

Dave Anderson