Monday, April 24, 2017

Maple Sugar described in Goodrich/Parley books

Generally maple syrup is the end result from the sap tapped from maple trees.  However the following excerpts detail how maple sugar was made.  Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793-1860)  wrote numerous books (excerpts from 1832-1856) under his name or as 'Peter Parley". 
The first image is from Recollections of a Lifetime by Goodrich.

1856  "Sugar was partially supplied by our maple-trees. These were tapped in March, the sap being collected, and boiled down in the woods. This was wholly a domestic operation, and one in which all the children rejoiced, each taking his privilege of an occasional sip or dip, from the period of the limpid sap, to the granulated condiment. Nevertheless, the chief supply of sugar was from the West Indies."
Recollections of a Lifetime, Or Men and Things I Have Seen..., Volume 1 by Samuel Griswold Goodrich.  NY: 1856   image:

1850  "They also make, in Vermont, more than a million of dollars, worth of maple sugar a year. It is the next sugar producing state to Louisiana. They boil it in the latter state, from the juice of the sugar-can; but in Vermont they boil it from the sap of the maple trees."
The first book of history: for children and youth.  1850  image:

1837  "Illinois, like Indiana, has extensive forests, and but few inhabitants; yet it is a charming country, and a great many people go every year from various places to settle there. Some of the inhabitants raise very delicious grapes, and when they are ripe, they make wine of the juice. Many of the people of these Western States manufacture sugar from the sap of maple trees. Here is a picture of a man making maple sugar."
 Child's Book of American Geography: Designed as an Easy and Entertaining ...Boston: 1837

1832  "Maple Sugar is extensively manufactured and used in some parts of Pennsylvania and New York; the following description of the manner of making it will not be uninteresting. “We raise no cotton or sugar-cane, but we manufacture sugar from the sugar-maple, (acer saccharinum.) This tree which arrives at a size rivalling the largest white oaks, flourishes in our sandy bottoms, spouty drafts, on the sides of our mountains and the summit of the Alleghany. It is slow of growth, hard to kill, but when dead, soon rots. The roots are numerous and strong, interlaced on or near the surface of the ground, so that it is impossible to plough near them.
When the sugar season begins, which is generally about the first of March, the sugar maker repairs his camp, if it is out of order. The camp is a small shed made of logs covered with slabs or clap-boards, and open at one side. Immediately before the opening, four wooden forks are planted, on which is placed a strong pole. From this is suspended as many wooden hooks as the sugar boiler has kettles, usually four. Wood is auled, and it requires a large quantity to boil a season.

The troughs to receive the water are roughly hewn of cucumber, white or yellow pine, or wild cherry, and contain from one to three gallons. The trees are tapt with a 3-4 auger, about one inch or an inch and a half deep. In the hole is placed a spile or spout 18 inches long, made of sumach. Two spiles are put into a tree.

A good camp will contain 150 or 200 trees. When the troughs are full, the boilers go round with a sled drawn by horses, on which are placed two barrels to receive the water [sap]. Having filled the barrels he returns to camp, and fills up the vessels, which consists of his meat vessels, &c. well cleaned. The water which is gathered in should be immediately boiled, because it makes the best sugar. If left to stand a few days it becomes sour and ropy. They fill up the kettles, and as it boils down, the kettles are filled up again until all is boiled in.

"In order to ascertain when it is fit to stir off, a little of the molasses is taken out in a spoon, and dropt into a tin of cold water... If the molasses is thick it will form a thread in the water, and if this thread will break like glass, when struck with a knife, it must be taken off the fire and is fit to stir off. The kettle is set on the ground and occasionally stirred till it cools and granulates.  Great judgment is required and the most exact attention to take it off at the very moment it is fit. If it is taken off too soon, the sugar will be wet and tough; if it is left on too long, it will be burnt or be bitter, and scarcely fit for use. Some boilers try it by taking a few drops of the molasses between the thumb and finger, and if it ropes like glue when it cools, it is said to be in sugar.

A tree is calculated to produce a season a barrel of water of 30 gallons, and it requires six gallons to make a pound of sugar. This estimate, however, appears too large. I have never known a camp turn out, one tree with another, more than three pounds. In Jamaica it is not unusual for a gallon of raw cane liquor to yield a pound of sugar.

It is supposed there can be no doubt of the fact that our trees do not produce as much as formerly. Many of the trees have been injured by fire, but the fatal cause of their deterioration is the auger. —When a tree is cut down which has been frequently tapt, there is a black and rotten streak for a foot above and below many of the auger holes. . The great miracle is that a single sugar tree is alive in Bedford; but the Almighty Fabricator of the Universe has in his infinite wisdom and beneficence bestowed on this precious tree a tenacity of life truly wonderful Though every year assaulted by the axe, the auger, or by fire, it clings to existence, and yields to its ungrateful possessor a luxury and necessary of life, which but for it would command a price which would debar its use from the poor. The average price of maple is from 6 to 10 cents per pound.'— Description of Bedford county Pennsylvania, from the American Farmer.
A System of Universal Geography...Boston 1832

Samuel Griswold Goodrich  1793-1860  (Peter Parley)
©2017 Patricia Bixler Reber
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1 comment:

  1. As I am sure you know, there is a nice discussion/description of maple sugaring in "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is, of course, a fictionalized recollection by an adult from when she was a small girl, but interesting nonetheless.