Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
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Boiling Sap on Armenia Mountain
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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Boiling Sap on Armenia Mountain

Photo No. 68 was that of Charlie Green boiling sap on Armenia Mountain on the farm where the Leon Putnam family now lives. The procedure in boiling sap in Charlie’s day was a very primitive operation compared to today’s methods of evaporators.

He is carrying sap with a neck yoke which eased the job of carrying two buckets at a time. The wooden containers must be used for sap storage and the boiling kettle can be seen in the sap shelter. The sugar bush was located near Tamarack Creek.

The climate on Armenia Mountain was considered more conducive to sap runs than in the valley, as the nights were colder. Also the season was longer as the buds were a week or so later starting. But even up there a south wind would retard the sap flow.

Sap spiles were often made of sumac, which has a hollow stem. The buckets were wooden. After the season ended the equipment was stored until the following year when they got out the buckets and soaked them in water to swell the wood. Otherwise they would leak.

The quality of the maple syrup was not as fine as that made today in evaporators, but it had a stronger maple flavor. Boiling in open pans or kettles drew insects and leaves blew into the boiling sap. A skimmer with holes was used to skim the residue of froth, leaves and bugs. All of these extra ingredients may have added flavor but the boiling purified the syrup.

When the sap was boiled down to some degree, but not quite thick enough to take off the fire, there was a danger of it boiling over and catching fire. That would burn the whole batch and ruin it. A bucket of cold water close by was used to cool it down or sometimes a rind of bacon fat was hung by a string over the boiling pan, when the syrup started to boil over, the fat could be lowered into the pan and it slowed the boiling and kept it under control.

I do not know how Charlie cleansed his syrup, but we used to bring it in and reheat it in a kettle on the cook stove and break a couple of egg into it. As the eggs cooked they accumulated the sediment and it was skimmed off until the syrup was clear.

After the syrup was canned, if it set too long, rock candy formed in the bottom of the can, clear and translucent. A real treat. Men who liked their nip of whiskey would add whiskey to the rock candy in the jar and used it for cough syrup. The cough seemed to persist until the medicine was gone.

One of the big jobs of making maple syrup in the old days was getting up wood for the fire. Today I think the evaporators are heated by more modern means in most cases. As the sap boils it runs from one compartment of the evaporator to another until the finished product is of a very fine quality.

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 04 MAR 2004
By Joyce M. Tice 
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