Campus News

Video: Maple Syruping a Sweet Pastime for Bowdoin Students

Story posted April 04, 2011

syrup pail on tree

One silver bead of sap dangles at the end of the tap. It flashes in the spring sunlight just as it falls, plip, into the tin pail below.

"Mmmmm, taste the sap," says Wesley Hartwell '11 as he dips a finger into the pail. "This one has a strong flavor, kind of tree-y."

Hartwell is one of a brigade of Bowdoin students and staff who are participating in a maple syruping operation on the Bowdoin campus this spring. It is part of the Meet What You Eat initiative, which is raising awareness about eating locally.

Bowdoin Syruping from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

In early March, they tromped through snowdrifts behind MacMillan House and Boody-Johnson to tap 15 red maples and sugar maples. Over the course of a month, the student volunteers—led by Bowdoin Organic Garden Manager Katherine Creswell—collected 300-plus gallons of sap.

It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to produce just one gallon of syrup. Kreswell estimates the Bowdoin operation will yield about five gallons of syrup, all of which will be served in Bowdoin dining halls during the spring. The first tasting will be served at the Annual Locavore Dinner, April 6, 2011 [see recipe, below.].

The sap has been boiled off in a large evaporator over a wood fire behind the Bowdoin Outing Club. Fondly referred to as the "hobo camp," the syruping site has drawn students and townspeople for weeks. "People really like hanging out around the fire and everybody who has come by has learned how to make syrup," Creswell says.

boiling the syrup
Volunteer syrup makers Maina Handmaker '11, Spencer Nietmann '11, Organic Garden Manager Katherine Creswell, and Danica Louks '13 tend the fire.

It isn't the first syruping operation in recent College history. Last February, Maine-native Spencer Eusden '12 got together a bunch of friends to tap five Bowdoin maples. They boiled it off on the stove in MacMillan House, which features an industrial hood fan capable of removing the massive amounts of steam generated.

Two weeks of sap collection yielded about four pints of syrup, says Eusden, "and made the house smell really nice, which was kind of a nice improvement."

Creswell says she hopes that maple syruping can become a regular part of the production cycle of Bowdoin Organic Garden. "This is very much a part of the cultural heritage of New England," she says, "and it's important to keep that alive."

Other departments supporting the syruping operation include Bowdoin Dining Services, Environmental Studies Program and Physics Department.

Baked Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Maple

Yield: about 10 3oz. portions

1 Lbs Butternut Squash peeled and seeded, cut into 1-2 cubes
2 oz. Sliced Cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 Tablespoons Butter melted
1 Teaspoon Salt or to taste
Teaspoon White Pepper or to taste
1 Tablespoon (or to taste) Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1. Lightly brush a shallow baking pan with butter or spray with pan oil.
2. Combine sugar and sliced cranberries.
3. Combine squash & cranberries mixture with butter and remaining ingredients except maple syrup. Arrange in pans in a single layer keeping cranberries on top.
4. Bake @ 350 F for 45 or until tender and lightly browned.
5. During the last 15 minutes of cooking drizzle with pure maple syrup.

Hubbard, Acorn, Butternut or any winter squash may be used. Seasoning for squash may be adjusted by using nutmeg, allspice, ground clove or ginger and you can also sweeten with honey.

A Bowdoin Dining Service recipe.

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