MOUNTAIN LIFE - Ontario | Winter 2016 - page 30

By Bill Shelley
When I was a teenager my father and I made
maple syrup the old-fashioned way, boiling it
down on the edge of a Grey County sugar bush
on a wood-fired evaporator. One of my jobs
was collecting sap; since this was a friendly
operation I sometimes quaffed straight from
the buckets, marvelling at the cold purity of the
quenching liquid with its wild-sweet finish.
It never occurred tome that I would be able
to relive this experience, especially since my
parents sold the sugar bush property many
years ago and we haven’t made syrup since.
But today anytime I feel nostalgia coming on I
can reach for a locally-sourced product called
Sapsucker. Nancy Chapman and Charlene
McGlaughlin began to bottle pure Beaver Valley
maple sap last year, driven by a desire to share
with the public a generations-strong tradition.
The Chapman family has always made maple
syrup at their farm in theValley
Nancy Chapman
and CharleneMcGlaughlinmet here and forged
the Sapsucker vision over sips of fresh sap. 2015
was their first year tomarket. “The 2015 harvest
was an interesting one,” says Nancy. “It was quite
cool for a long time andwewere afraid that sap
wasn’t going to run. It stays cooler in the Beaver
Valley than it does farther south inOntario, so
we were one of the last areas to get sap. Every
drop we get is very precious to us and there’s a
lot of work behind every drop. And it’s definitely
variable from year to year.” Charlene adds, “But
that’s what makes it so special.”
Charlene describes Sapsucker as a celebration
of the ancient rite of tapping the sugar maple
Acer saccharum
). “We want to build that
experience for someone who’s never had sap
from a tree before,” she explains. “It is our
way of sharing something unique from nature.
We know not everyone can drink straight from
the tree. This is what we believe living in the
Valley is all about
it is simple and authentic.
Sapsucker is an extension of that.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more region-
specific taste experience. And thoughmaple
sap is regarded by producers as simply a raw
material, Charlene and Nancy point out that it
is a sustainable and healthful way to hydrate.
Since sap originates inside a sugar maple,
it is born frommoisture in the air and the
earth around the tree
not from an aquifer.
As it draws moisture up through its roots,
the tree acts as a filter, adding flavour and
nutrients. Sap contains a variety of vitamins
andminerals (includingmanganese, zinc,
magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, calcium,
and thiamin), polyphenols, and amino acids. A
tree can be tapped for at least 100 years with
no detrimental effects; a mature maple has
countless litres of sap to spare.
For true sustainability Charlene and Nancy
recommend drinking tap water
Sapsucker is
meant to replace bottled water as a special-
occasion drink or a cherished complement to
food. Other uses include cooking
Stadtlander of Eigensinn Farm, Jason Bangerter
of Langdon Hall Country House, and Sam
Holwell and Caesar Guinto of Creemore Kitchen
are among its fans
and as a mixer with dark
rum or Canadian whiskey. The Sapsucker
founders give me a tip: freeze Sapsucker in an
ice cube tray and add it to drinks
the sugar
content means it melts slowly in the glass.
One thing that doesn’t happen slowly is the sap
harvest. Depending on the season, Charlene and
Nancy might have only a fewweeks to collect
the sweet haul from their small-farm suppliers.
Then it must go to the Tetra Pak bottling plant
inMississauga within 36 hours tomaintain
freshness. The recyclable, plant-based Tetra Pak
gives sap a shelf life of up to 18months. So
now a taste that used to be as fleeting as the
spring thaw is available anytime. Tome that
feels like the best kind of progress.
“WeuseSapsucker in
with it; infused it into
of crullers inour retail
shop; and itwill bea
featured ingredient
onour new cocktail
AChapman family tap, LowerValley Road,Grey County. BREYA SKINNERPHOTO.
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