Friday, March 4, 2011

Sinzibukwud - Drawn from Wood

Bonsoir Everyone!
Well at this time of year and spring about to come around the corner, I simply can't resist chatting abit about sap! Or as the title so eloquently speaks - sinzibukwud - it's Algonquin reference.

Here in my corner of the woods, as the world begins to awaken after it's winter rest, so do our beautiful sugar maple trees. And since our ancestors- aboriginal and otherwise, learned the art of harnessing that bounty of nature, I for one, simple can't wait to taste the first fresh offering of the year! I tend to be like most people, serving it slightly warm on pancakes and waffles but for those who are of the truly adventurous nature - try it drizzled over a perfectly sectioned half of pink grapefruit! Humour me, it really will give your tastebuds a smile.

The Algonquins and other Aboriginals in the areas of southeast Canada and northeastern United States, would cut a 'v' in to the trunk of the tree and use a piece of bark or reed to act as a spile in channeling the sweet drips of liquid into large birchbark bowls, clay pots or other containment. The sap was concentrated either by leaving it out to freeze overnight which would cause the water content to freeze on the top- leaving the sweet sugar remnant in the bottom or they may also just add hot stones to the liquid sap to help evaporate the water away. As the immigrant settlers arrived from Europe, they brought with them the iron and copper pots which aided the boiling of sap for even longer periods and therefore the removal of more water content, which afforded an even more concentrated flavour to the syrup.

Some basics: The sugar maple tree has to be atleast 12" in diameter to 'tap' for ideal volumes and that equates to the tree being about 40 years old! There are other types of North American native maple trees that produce sap as well (red, silver and black varieties) and apparently the black maple is often tapped as well for it's yield. Sap itself is about 90% water and 10% remaining sugars, which is why such large volumes of sap are required to produce the maple treat. (about 40 gal. sap = 1 gal.syrup)

During winter the sap is safely stored in the roots of the tree but once there are hints of spring - usually late February through April, when the days are warmer and the nights are cold, the sap flows up from the roots to the branches during the warm daytime hours and then returns to the roots in the cold evening hours. This is when the 'sap is running' and tapping can begin.

As always, one can find many websites and books that can feed your curiosity about this lovely gift of nature but the best way to learn more is to visit and experience a local sugar shanty and see for yourself if you are able! It is an early and long standing part of our culture and history - it is a walk in the bush just knowing that spring is on it's way! 

Might I suggest you look up the Legend of Chief Woksis and oh yes....
certainly enjoy a stack of pancakes drowning in it as well!

Until we chat again,


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