One sweet activity

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Intern Nick McBeain of Shakopee and Parks and Trails Supervisor Sam Pertz talk about the maple syrup collection process with an initial group. (Adam Gruenewald/The Times)

by Adam Gruenewald
adam.gruenewald@ecm-inc.com

With some sweet rewards in mind, inquisitive minds and families headed outdoors to some early morning chills to learn about the maple syrup-making process and enjoy several activities at Baylor Park on Saturday.
The ninth annual maple syrup open house at Baylor Park highlighted the maple syrup-making process for visitors, much like school groups did the week before.
Within the trails of the park in the sugar bush area of the park with plenty of sugar maple trees, hikers learned about identifying and selecting sugar maple trees from Parks and Trails Supervisor Sam Pertz and intern Nick McBeain.
While it is possible to tap silver and red maple trees as well as box elder, Baylor Park staff typically collect from sugar maples which produce a sweeter and higher concentration of sap for maple syrup.
“The ratio of what we do here is 40 gallons to 1 gallon,” said McBeain. “So 40 gallons of sap produces 1 gallon of syrup. You really have to get rid of a lot of that moisture.”
Pertz added that other types of maples have different ratios, such as the box elders which have a ratio of 80-1.
“You want to make sure you’re going into a sugar maple because it just doesn’t pay to tap other species,” said Pertz, sharing that taste is a factor as well. “You’re not going to win any competitions if you’re tapping box elders.”
Explaining the different characteristics of sugar maple trees, like the bark and leaves as well as the branches shape, McBeain and Pertz shared how about 40 to 50 gallons of sap are collected per tap.
Pertz shared that while Baylor Park has plenty of sugar maple trees, park staff limit the tapping depending on weather for preservation.
“We don’t run our trees all that hard,” he said. “We’re not selling this stuff. We’re just doing it for education because we have a mindset of taking care of our trees.”
While collection was somewhat limited at the beginning of the open house because of the cold, McBeain demonstrated the process of drilling a hole in a mature tree of greater than 12 inches diameter and in the right place and height on the three.
Visitors to the park on Saturday also were able to tour the evaporator and finishing rooms in the Sugar Shack guided by Carver County Parks Recreation and Volunteer Specialist Jessica Fenn.
After getting boiled in the evaporator room, the mixture is then filtered again in the finishing room through gas heat at about 200 degrees and measured with a hydrometer to measure the density of the water and sugar content for the final finished all natural product that is then bottled in 3.4-ounce and quart-bottles.
At Baylor Park, park staff doesn’t collect a lot of syrup from the trees and also gives most of it away to school groups.
In addition to learning about the maple syrup process, open house attendees also enjoyed some ice cream with syrup, a scavenger hunt, coloring activities and a taste test between pure Baylor Park syrup and store bought brand syrup.
For more information on Baylor Park and upcoming activities, visit http://www.co.carver.mn.us.
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.