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Michigan is known for many things – the Great Lakes, the automobile, cherries, apples, wine, beer, and other spirits – but did you know that some of the finest maple syrup comes from Michigan? It does. There are sugar houses in virtually every county in Michigan.
Like fine wines, every year is different when it comes to the quality and quantity of syrup. The main determining factor is weather. Here are some interesting factoids about Michigan Maple Syrup (from the Michigan Maple Syrup Association website)
- Michigan ranks 5th in maple syrup production in the United States.
- Average maple syrup production in Michigan is about 90,000 gallons per year.
- There are an estimated 500 commercial maple syrup producers in Michigan with some 2,000 additional hobby or home use producers.
- The production of pure maple syrup is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States.
- Maple syrup is one of the few agricultural crops in which demand exceeds supply.
- Only about 1 percent of Michigan’s maple forest resource is used in maple syrup production.
- In an average year, each tap-hole will produce about 10 gallons of maple sap, enough for about a quart of pure Michigan maple syrup.
- It takes approximately 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.
- Maple syrup is the first farm crop to be harvested in Michigan each year.
- A maple tree needs to be about 40 years old and have a diameter of 10 inches before tapping is recommended.
- The maple season in Michigan starts in February in the southern counties and runs well into April in the Upper Peninsula.
- Warm sunny days and freezing nights determine the length of the maple season.
- The budding of maple trees makes the maple syrup taste bitter. Thus, production ceases.
- Freezing and thawing temperatures create pressure and force the sap out of the tree.
- A very rapid rise in temperature (25 to 45 degrees) will enhance the sap flow.
- While the sugaring season may last 6 to 10 weeks, but during this period, the heavy sap may run only 10-20 days.
- Maple sap is boiled to remove the water and concentrate the sugars in a process called evaporation.
- Maple sap becomes maple syrup when boiled to 219 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.
- Pure Michigan maple syrup has 50 calories per tablespoon and is fat-free. It has no additives, no added coloring and no preservatives.
- Maple syrup has may minerals per tablespoon: 20 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of phosphorus, 0.2 milligrams of iron, 2 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium.
- Maple syrup is classified as one of nature’s most healthful foods.
Every year, on the last weekend in April, the town of Vermontville hosts the original, the “granddaddy” of Michigan syrup festivals.
As is typical in Michigan, some years are gorgeous, shirt-sleeve weather and some are bitingly cold. This is important to keep in mind as you are preparing to go to the festival because you will be outside most of the time.
Naturally, the day starts out with pancake breakfasts. Lines are very long, so be prepared to wait. These breakfasts are a main form of revenue for charitable causes in the area. The pancakes and sausage are good, but the syrup is heavenly.
The Vermontville festival is great for all age groups. There are always games and contests for the little guys, and there are craft booths, car shows and sales of all things maple. My personal favorite (next to syrup, of course) is maple sugar candy. If you’ve never tried it, you’re really missing out. It’s very rich though but easy to make, so buy lots of extra syrup to make candy with.
Here are a couple of photos of the early crowds. Notice the long line for pancake breakfast.
Here are the instructional exhibit and the coop sales buildings.
The local mounted patrol came by to check things out.
Some of the terrific cars at the car show
One of the craftsmen is a chainsaw carver. His specialty was bears (naturally, a favorite of mine), but he also had some other cute “critters.” Two of his bear carvings made it home with us.
This artist made useful items from found materials. There were all manner of benches, chairs, cabinets, and bookshelves made from discarded items.
This bench was made from old farm implements (pitchforks) and discarded doors.
This corner cabinet (which I bought) really grabbed my attention. It is made from an old window, old shutters, and an old door.
These are just a few of the activities that go on during the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. Other activities include rides, fireworks, bands, a parade, a 5k walk/run, a petting zoo, a flea market, and several dinner, fundraisers – lots to do for the whole family.
So mark your calendars, now, for the last weekend in April. Plan to visit the Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival. I might see you there!
Here is a link to the festival’s website.