Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maple Sugar: Beyond Candy, Part 1

By: Gwen Miner, Domestic Arts Supervisor Today some think of maple sugar as a candy, but in the 1840s its uses were much more extensive. Primarily, it was a sweetener, a foodstuff if you will. Most farms had a “sugar bush,” a grove of sugar maples maintained solely for the purpose of “tapping” for the sweet sap that is yielded when the weather turns mild in late February and March. In the mid-19th century “Sugaring Off” referred to the weeks in March when the sap was running and was being boiled down into maple sugar. Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote in her book Rural Hours on Saturday, April 1st –
Fresh maple sugar offered for sale today. A large amount of this sugar is still made in our neighborhood, chiefly for home consumption on the farms, where it is a matter of regular household use, many families depending on it altogether, keeping only a little white sugar for sickness; and it is said that children have grown up in this county without tasting any but maple sugar.

While most sugar was used in the home, it could also be used as a commodity to trade or make payment with. Susan’s grandfather, Judge William Cooper, noted in the book A Guide in the Wilderness that he would take maple sugar as payment for land. Imagine asking your bank to accept your bag of sugar in exchange for your house today!

Starting March 1 and every Sunday in the month we will be hosting our traditional Sugaring Off Sundays. Check back for more maple-related posts.
Sugaring Off, 1945, Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses. Collection of Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY. Gift of Mrs. Stephen C. Clark. N0415.1967.

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