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updated: 3/9/2014 10:44 PM

Warm up just in time for maple syrup in Naperville

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  • Justin Stech, an educator at the Naper Settlement Museum in Naperville, demonstrates how to tap a maple tree to gather sap to make it into maple syrup. Dozens visited the settlement Sunday for its annual Maple Sugaring Days.

       Justin Stech, an educator at the Naper Settlement Museum in Naperville, demonstrates how to tap a maple tree to gather sap to make it into maple syrup. Dozens visited the settlement Sunday for its annual Maple Sugaring Days.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • A crowd gathers Sunday around Naper Settlement Museum Educator Justin Stech as he demonstrates how to tap a maple tree to gather sap to make it into maple syrup. The Naperville settlement held its annual Maple Sugaring Days over the weekend.

       A crowd gathers Sunday around Naper Settlement Museum Educator Justin Stech as he demonstrates how to tap a maple tree to gather sap to make it into maple syrup. The Naperville settlement held its annual Maple Sugaring Days over the weekend.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Sap slowly drips into a metal bucket Sunday at the Naper Settlement in Naperville. Dozens visited the settlement for its annual Maple Sugaring Days.

       Sap slowly drips into a metal bucket Sunday at the Naper Settlement in Naperville. Dozens visited the settlement for its annual Maple Sugaring Days.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Visitors to the Naper Settlement check out a tapped maple tree Sunday that was part of a demonstration showing how maple syrup used to be made. the demonstration was part of the Naperville museum's annual Maple Sugaring Days.

       Visitors to the Naper Settlement check out a tapped maple tree Sunday that was part of a demonstration showing how maple syrup used to be made. the demonstration was part of the Naperville museum's annual Maple Sugaring Days.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

Human beings aren't the only living creatures who've had a rough winter.

The area's maple trees have suffered, too, and that can put a real damper on events like the Naper Settlement's annual Maple Sugaring Days, which took place this weekend in Naperville.

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Fortunately, the weather was just mild enough on Sunday to get sap flowing inside the trees.

"Like anything else that's agricultural, making maple syrup is weather-dependent," Justin Stech, a Naper Settlement educator, said after leading a demonstration on maple tree-tapping Sunday. "Today worked out OK, much better than yesterday."

The Naper Settlement is an outdoor museum that displays how life was lived in the 19th century and beyond. Maple Sugaring Days shows how important maple sugar and syrup were as sweeteners for the people of the 1800s. It also serves as an unofficial kickoff for the spring season.

Dozens crowded around Sunday afternoon as Stech showed how farmers used to drill holes in maple trees and then insert a small spout, which allowed sap to drip out of the tree and into a bucket.

Farmers would then take the sap and boil the water out of it, a process which left the sweet maple syrup behind.

"It sounds simple, but it's very labor-intensive," Stech said. "I think that's what surprises people."

The tree-tapping demonstrations were just part of the events that made up Maple Sugaring Days. Visitors to the Naper Settlement also could see what it was like to carry a yolk with two buckets attached, or sample a handmade maple popcorn ball.

Jake Ackerman of Naperville attended the event on Sunday with his son, Stephen.

"He really wanted to see the trees get tapped," Ackerman said. "I think it's fun for kids because they know syrup from having it on their pancakes or whatever -- they like seeing how that used to be made."

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