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Marlinton, West Virginia
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February 18, 2021     The Pocahontas Times
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Tapping the sugarbush sap to Part One cannot imagine tucking into a tall stack of pan— cakes without a liberal dousing of maple syrup. And by maple syrup, I mean real maple syrup, not the amber liquid composed primarily of high-fructose corn syrup and flavored with chemicals or fenugreek. I am speaking strictly of the nectar of maple trees. Suppose you enjoy real maple syrup, and you live in Pocahontas County. In that case, you are fortunate to have close at hand the two essentials of the sweet bounty of the maple tree. Lots of sugar, red and black maple trees, and the people skilled in extracting the sap from those trees and turning it into a waffle topping rival- ing ambrosia. Not to mention maple candy, butter, cream and even maple cotton candy. In this episode of the Watoga Trail Report, we will examine the history of “sugar making,” as maple syrup producers call it. Next week, we will narrow our focus down to one young en- trepreneurial family in Hills- boro — the Swans. They are joining a growing list of maple product producers in Pocahontas County. At first glance the whole process looks pretty straight- forward, but I assure you it is not. The maple trees produce the sap but obtaining that sap and turning it into maple syrup is time-consuming and physically demanding. And not without logistical prob— lems unique to an industry situated in our mountainous terrain. Expect a lot of mucking about in the snow if you in- tend on being a_ producer. The romantic Currier and Ives portrayal of the steam- ing sugar shack is after you have collected and trans- ported the sap back to the evaporator. Keep in mind that it takes some 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. If sugaring is not to be ap— proached as an easy task today, imagine how difficult it must have been before modern labor-saving de- vices. It is widely acknowledged and appreciated that Native Americans instructed the early Europeans in the method of making tree syrups. BETTY SHEETS, OF Hillsboro, recently received a very important piece of mail. It was from her grandsons, Charlie and Austin, who live in South Carolina. As you can see, it is addressed to Grandma Fisher, with the address in a straight line, and Charlie and Austin’s names across the bottom. You should notice, as well, that the letter has no stamp, but it does have a bar code across the bottom. The boys are tak- ing precautions in this time of COVID. They sealed the envelope with double-sided tape, rather than licking it. Photo and info courtesy of Betty Sheets TRIVIA a little something to think about Courtesy of Chuck Cornell 1. Sarah Josepha Hale ad- vocated for women’s higher education. She helped found Vassar College. Oh, yeah, she wrote “Mary had a Little Lamb,” and she famously campaigned for a particular American holiday. What is it? 2. Here are some names: Whiteman, Offutt, Nellis, Davis—Monthan and Elmen- dorf? Where would you find them? 3. My buddy, Hermann, a Swiss psychiatrist and psy- choanalyst, back 100 years FREE ESTIMATES 304-199-2416 ' Complete ’Ii‘ee Care and Removal Lot Clearing 0 Rights-of-Way ' Stump Grinding Veteran and Senior Discounts cell: 681-298-0556 We“ ago, developed a certain test to help identify personality, psychotic and neurological disorders. This method was referred to as the Rorschach Test. What is the more com— mon name for this test. 4. The first major manu- facturing firm took “this” radical step back in 1914, doubling pay from $2.50 a day to $5 per day, and only working its employees for eight hours a day. The com- pany’s profits rose from $30M a year to $60M. Name the company. Since WV2226-1961 tithe iButabontas (Enrica—February 18, 2021—Page 3 .M \L ANN ABEL TAPS A maple tree while her father, 'Ii‘evor Swan, looks on. K. Springer photo Archaeologists cannot de— termine precisely when na- tive peoples started to reduce tree sap to something akin to today’s maple syrup. It is likely that the finished prod- uct was not nearly as dense as ours is today. There are many stories about how the native people discovered the method of making maple syrup. One legend has it that the first use of maple syrup was boiling venison for a great chief’s culinary pleasure. Today’s maple syrup con— tains approximately 66% su- crose and has a higher viscosity. So that old legend suggests that the earliest ver— from the Past Courtesy of the Ruth Friel Estate Thirty days... Hath September... April, June... And the speed offender. Burma-Shave Henry the Eighth... Sure had trouble... Short term wives... Long term stubble. Burma—Shave sions of syrup may have been sap boiled just long enough to create a sweet liq- uid. Many of the legends re- count boiling various wild meats in maple sap. We know that Native peo- ple of New England and Canada collected the sap in birch baskets. Dropping hot rocks into the sap turned the liquid to steam, thereby con- centrating the sugar in the re- maining sap. One method allowed the baskets of sap to freeze. By removing the ice each day, the remaining liquid became progressively more saturated with sugar over time. I happen to like that par— ticular method due to a life- long aversion to physical labor. When we think of maple syrup, we tend to identify it solely with Canada and the US. Almost all of the world’s maple syrup comes from North America, some 85% produced by Canada alone. Although, Europe did not ignore the sweet treat pro- vided by the sucrose—laden vascular system of birch and maple trees. European and Scandinavian historical records reveal that several tree species were used to make sweet drinks and alco— holic beverages. Yet, there is little mention of what we in North America would regard as “syrup.” Even today, most maple products sold in Europe are imported from North Amer— ica. 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