Richfield Historical Society

Richfield, WI


It's Maple Syrup Time

Every year in the quietness of the Richfield Historical Park, the majestic maple trees share their sap so it can be made into sweet maple syrup. The Richfield Historical Society Maple Syrup Team (MST) places taps into 40 maple trees (2 taps per tree) in the Richfield Historical Park. From this sap, delicious maple syrup is made and sold. Mother Nature has to cooperate to make the sap run – warm (but not too warm) days and cool nights.

Here is a typical day for the MST:

* Starting at 8 am, sap is collected with the amount being recorded. (Sap may be collected again at noon and 4 pm depending upon how it is flowing.)

* The sap is then poured through a milk filter and into a large tank.

* All the ash is cleaned from the fire box and a fire is built for the day’s boil.

  • * The rest of the day is spent in the processing of the sap – adding 3 gallons of sap when the level drops and keeping the fire stoked. This continues until 120 gallons of sap are in the pan. The sap is boiled to remove the water from the sap. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The Team must always make sure the sap covers the bottom of the pan so it does not burn (burning the pan is a very, very bad thing!)

* The sap is then run through a fresh double filter and put into the finishing pan. It is heated to 200 degrees and bottled. 66% is the sweet spot -- less and it can spoil; more and it can turn to candy in the bottle.

Once the weather turns too warm, the sap starts to ferment and, therefore, is unusable for syrup. Sap should be clear like water. When it gets cloudy and takes on a distinct odor, the maple syrup season is over for another year.

All of this process takes place in the comfort of the Sugar Shack (built by an Eagle Scout.) When sap first started being gathered at the Park, all of the processing took place outside.  

The Maple Syrup Team has it easy compared to the methods used long ago. Many believe birch bark containers (Mokuks) were used by Native Americans. They would heat rocks, then put them in these containers to reduce the sap into syrup and sugar.

This work was done by the women of the tribes who controlled the entire process. Maple syrup was used for several purposes, but due to its limited shelf life most of the sap was turned into sugar. It was then used as a trade item.

Every year around the end of March, the Society holds Maple Syrup Family Day. Watch the RHS website for the actual date. Learn how trees are tapped and the rich syrup is made. This is a free event with demonstrations. Tours of the historic buildings in the Park can be taken (small fee). These tours include Motz Log Cabin (storytelling takes place here), Messer Log Barn, Messer/Mayer Mill, Mill House and Lillicrapp Welcome Center Enjoy a wagon ride from the Sugar Shack to the north end of the Park. Hot dogs, hot chocolate, sweets, maple cotton candy and maple syrup will be available for sale. Donations are always appreciated to help with the Society’s projects, in particular the restoration of the Messer/Mayer Mill.  The Richfield Historical Society is an all-volunteer organization.

Many Thanks to the Dedicated Richfield Historical Society’s Maple Syrup Team!


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