Visiting students will now have a sweet view of maple syrup being made in Camp Kawartha’s new Sugar Shack. Staff used recycled materials to create a little charming building with a large window installed low enough for even the smallest guests to see the sap bubbling away.
You’ll also notice a little cupola or raised area on the roof. Not to be confused with the chimney which exhausts the smoke from the fire, this boxy protrusion is a common feature of most sugar shacks and carries the sticky steam out of the building. Little windows on some cupolas also serve to add light to the space. Letting the steam out is important! Anyone who has ever tried to boil sap in their own kitchen and has either stained their ceiling or peeled the wallpaper off the walls learned their lesson the hard way (yup, it happened to me).
The star of the operation is our new evaporator, a large, shallow, stainless steel pan which allows water to be boiled off quickly at very high temperatures (hence the safe window for our guests). A slow and steady heat is required to prevent the sap from frothing and scorching and of course the pan can never boil dry! A distracted maple sugar producer can easily burn his evaporator pan which is difficult and expensive to replace. Continuous attention is required to add more and more sap and keep the fire at a consistent heat. A lot of wood is also required for this endeavor. Producing sap can also be done on an open fire but it’s much less efficient than keeping the fire in a closed stove.
Every year Camp Kawartha taps dozens of maple trees on it’s own property using traditional spigots and collection buckets. It takes 40 litres of sap to create 1 litre of syrup (due to the fact that sap starts out as 98% water) so there are no quick sugar fixes here. But the sweet smell, the warm steam and the sound of the crackling wood help pass the time and within hours the watery liquid is transformed into that thick maple goodness we Canadians identify so strongly with.
Maple syrup season starts when the nights are below zero and the days are above zero which usually happens somewhere between mid-March and mid April. Just one more reason to book your school visit during that time. The Camp Kawartha’s Outdoor Education Centre in Spring – it’s a sweet idea!