Do-it-yourself maple syrup keeps Manotick woman's spirits high during pandemic

While Canadians’ love for maple syrup is well documented — even a cliché — one Ottawa woman is taking the sweet treat to another level.

Janet Perry says joys of tree tapping boils down to memories

Janet Perry has been making maple syrup from trees in her own backyard for years. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Janet Perry isn't dependent on supermarkets or industrial operations for her maple fix; she's been tapping trees in her own backyard and boiling down that experience into memories for years.

"We can even enjoy [the maple syrup] all year round," Perry told CBC Radio's In Town And Out. "It brings back the memories and the joys of what we did."

She said her fondness for the sugary treat dates back to a childhood spent on her family's farm. Now, after a few trips to the local hardware store, and with jars on hand, she taps trees at her home in Manotick.

For those thinking of attempting their own do-it-yourself sugar bush, Perry suggests drilling the spigot approximately two to three centimetres into the tree. 

The angle of the spigot is also important, she said. Keep it pointed slightly upwards.

Boil it down or drink it straight

After collecting the sap – with one of her trees bringing in more than a litre of the sticky substance – she and her husband use a propane cooker to begin the outside boiling process. 

They then finish boiling it inside, using the "spoon test" to know when the sap hits the magical temperature and is ready to be turned into syrup.

"Take up your sap with a spoon, you pour it off, and it should start to become viscous and drip slowly off," she said. 

Perry said she doesn't limit herself to finished maple products.

"My grandkids love to drink just the sap straight," she said. "You just need a cup." 

As a science teacher at Frederick Banting Alternative High School in Stittsville, Perry incorporates tree tapping in the classroom and enjoys teaching her own grandchildren about the delights of tapping trees. 

It's a way to get outdoors, she said, adding she finds even the smell of boiling sap enough to improve her mood — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My spirits would jump like 10 notches. Just incredible."

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