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Thứ Tư, 25 tháng 3, 2015

Sap running at Deep River for maple syrup production - Chicago Tribune

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Maple Syrup Time

With the onset of spring, Annette Murphy and her son Tyler, 11, were excited about getting outdoors recently for Annual Maple Syrup Time at Deep River County Park.

"The tapping of the trees is really interesting. We've learned a lot," Tyler said, as the two finished inspecting buckets that were collecting tree sap. "But you have to remember to only put in three taps — no more or it won't work right."

Along with dozens of other visitors throughout the day, the duo listened to a discussion by Dawn Robertson of the Lake County Parks Department about how maple tree sap is collected to make sugar and syrup.

Maple syrup can only be produced in certain U.S. states and Canada and only at a certain time of the year. Above freezing day temperatures and below freezing night temperatures make conditions right.

"It takes a very long time for a tree to grow — it needs to be about 40 years old to put in a tap," Robertson told the crowd "But the tree begins to heal itself immediately when we take out the taps."

After the history lesson, held at various trees throughout the park, visitors talked with Voyageur-era volunteers, who were sporting the dress of the day.

Their task was to transform the sap into maple sugar, using large black pots over an open fire.

"Maple sugar sustained Native Americans through many a harsh winter," re-enactor Terry Haas of Kankakee, Ill., said as he explained the process.

The next stop for visitors was down the road at the Deep River Sugar Shack, which housed the "evaporator." This piece of equipment boiled the sap to 212 degrees, after which it was transferred to a filter.

"After it's filtered, it is reheated and filtered again," parks employee Walter Donald said as he used a large ladle to scoop up the syrup-in-the-making for the crowd to observe. "The final step is to bottle and package it for sale in the Gift Shop."

The last stop on the day's tour was the historic John Wood Grist Mill. Although the mill ceased operations in the 1970s, the Lake County Parks Department acquired the building and still makes cornmeal to be sold in the gift shop.

"We're selling a ton of this today," said David Gunnerson, the building's miller clerk, as he gave the final sift to a fresh batch of cornmeal. "There are so many uses for this product."

Terry Harrington of Hobart and her daughter Jazmine, 10, went home with a few bags of the cornmeal, three bottles of maple syrup and two shakers of the maple sugar. "These make great gifts," Harrington said. "You can't find these anywhere in the stores. That's what makes them so special."

For more information about programs offered by the Lake County Parks Department, call (219) 947-7275.

Sue Ellen Ross is a freelance reporter.

Copyright © 2015, Post-Tribune

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