Spec. Matthew Diaz
10th Mountain Division Journalist
High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, natural and artificial maple flavors, cellulose gum, salt, caramel color, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid and sodium hexametaphosphate. These are the ingredients found in a typical bottle of generic pancake syrup.
However, that is not how Fort Drum’s syrup is made. Sap from a sugar maple tree is boiled for about five hours before being bottled. Syrup enthusiasts can see how it’s all done at the Fort Drum Maple Days event.
The first event was held Saturday, and another event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on 45th Infantry Drive near the water tower.
Maple Days is a no-cost celebration featuring displays of tools, both classic and modern, used to collect sap from trees. There is a short walking tour that takes visitors into the “sugar bush” (a patch of sugar maple trees) to see sap collection in action.
In the Sugar Shack, visitors may watch a demonstration of sap being boiled down into syrup. There are even samples of pure Fort Drum maple syrup for visitors’ tasting pleasure, as well as bottles of syrup available for purchase.
The event was created four years ago by the Fort Drum Forestry Department.
“The idea was thought up by a member of our team, Roger Voss, who is now the program manager,” said Don Mahan, acting forest program manager. “Usually, when you think of the Forestry Department, you think of lumber and logging. This is a new way to use Fort Drum’s resources. We can use the same tree every year.”
The weather on Saturday was perfect for sap collecting, said Christina Malitz, a forester who guided the tour through the woods.
“To collect sap, it needs to be cold at night – in the 20s – and then warm up in the day to the 40s,” Malitz said.
The weather also provided pleasant conditions for taking a stroll through the woods and seeing how syrup is made. The mild day brought out more than 100 visitors within the first hour.
“We will probably surpass least year’s total of 300 visitors just because of weather,” Mahan said.
The Fort Drum Forestry Department takes extra care not to injure the trees. If the trees are tapped wrong, or in the same spot too often, insects or bacteria can get into the tree, causing harm.
“Everything is done to keep the trees as healthy as possible,” Malitz added. “We rotate the taps every year.”
After the sap is collected, it must be boiled to reduce the amount of water so the thick, familiar favorite is all that remains. Depending on how long the sap is boiled, it yields different quality types of syrup: light, medium and dark. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is also very easy to distribute as there are no health regulations on its preparation or sale.
“We looked into it when we first started,” said Travis Ganter, a research assistant for Colorado State University. “All you need is contact information on the bottle. I think it’s because you boil the syrup for so long it really kills anything bad in there.”
For more information, call 772-6767 / 2746.