Lancaster County Central Park hosted a maple sugaring event on Saturday, February 22 in Pavilion 21. Through five different stations, visitors had the option to learn how to tap a tree, boil sap to syrup, and how to make candies from that maple syrup.
This annual event first started in 1976 and is currently set up by Lisa Sanchez, a Park Naturalist of the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation. These public demonstrations are for community members, as well as the occasional school group and scout troop.
The first station was set up with a Naturalist giving a brief history of how tapping trees began with Native Americans. They would dig into the trees with stones and use a whittled piece of wood as a sieve. European settlers eventually brought metal, which was a better way to tap trees because it was less destructive.
In the second station a park ranger with an environmental science background, Alex Manwiller, gave a demonstration of how to physically tap trees. In this area, he explained that 40 gallons of sap will only make one gallon of maple syrup. On a good sap day, tree-tappers get one gallon of sap per tree, connecting why maple syrup is expensive in grocery stores.
Manwiller also shows the ways to identify a sugar maple tree: the ends of their branches are pointed and their leaves look like the leaf on the Canadian flag.
The third station, and the second step in the maple syrup making process, took place in the Sugar Shack. This outdoor pavilion holds large, rectangular pans designed to boil the water out of the sap. As the steam comes off the sap, water leaves, allowing the sap to turn into a thick syrup. This smoky station left community members walking away smelling of campfire smoke.
Station four consisted of a smaller version of the previous station. The Syrup Finishing Station demonstrated a step that allows extra water to boil off the sap in a controlled way. This allows the liquid to get the thicker texture and consistency of syrup. The Naturalist explains that density and temperature are the best ways to check if the syrup is finally finished. Once complete, the syrup is filtered through a cloth to get rid of any dirt particles and impurities.
Making candy from maple syrup
The final station is the Maple Candy Station. Lisa Sanchez shows community members how to make maple sugar candy out of the syrup. She goes through the different grades of maple syrup and talks about the difference between pure maple syrup and “pancake syrup.”
“At the very end of the sugaring season, a black and bitter tasting syrup is produced. That is actually the commercial grade syrup. Well, that’s the syrup that they take and sell to the people who ruin it—makers of pancake syrup,” Sanchez explains. This number one ingredient in this type of syrup is corn syrup, followed by water and high fructose corn syrup.
Once the demonstration was over, the group tried some of the candy Sanchez made. She also included brief information about the spotted lantern fly and how they have the potential to endanger the sugar maple trees.
At the far end of the pavilion, Patterson Farms was selling different maple products like syrup, candies, cream, and cotton candy. They even had BBQ sauce and salad dressing made with their maple syrup. They are a Pennsylvania maple product company that sells quality, pure maple syrup goods.
This event provided an interactive demonstration to Lancaster County community members. It allowed event-goers to get an inside look at what is going on in their town.