Nearly two million gallons of maple syrup were produced in New England in 2015. Collecting enough sap (at 2% sugar content) to produce that much syrup would require more than 16,700,000 five-gallon sap buckets. One Native American legend claims that the first sap bucket was never intended as such. The story goes that a Native […]
By Joe Bills
Mar 09 2016
One Native American legend claims that the first sap bucket was never intended as such. The story goes that a Native American chief (most often Iroquois Chief Woksis) hurled his tomahawk at a maple tree, and the sap began to flow. The liquid dripped into a container on the ground below. Later, his wife, believing that the liquid was water, used it to cook venison, and maple syrup was “discovered.”
The first sap “buckets” were most likely rolled, folded birch-bark containers, which Native Americans would place on the ground beneath notches in maple trees. The collected sap would be concentrated by freezing it several times and then boiling it by dropping hot rocks into the container.
Europeans refined the process of collecting sap by drilling holes into the trees and attaching wooden spouts. They used buckets for collecting the sap and huge iron boiling pots to concentrate it into syrup or sugar.
Metal sap buckets came into popular use around 1875, following the advent of sheet metal. Prior to this, heavy oak and pine buckets were commonly used.
In the 1960s, plastic tubing started to replace metal buckets. Today, sap is collected by tubes that carry sap from the tree to a central container, or sometimes all the way to the sugarhouse. The first plastic sap-gathering pipeline system was patented by Nelson Griggs of Montpelier, Vermont, in 1959.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge, who was running for reelection, invited three titans of American industry—Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone—to his family home in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. While there, Coolidge gave Ford a sap bucket that had been in his family for generations. It was signed by all three men, and “the old Coolidge sap bucket” now hangs in historic Long-fellow’s Wayside Inn—once owned by Ford—in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
In 2013, a crew at the Saugeen Bluffs Maple Festival in the Canadian province of Ontario fashioned what might be the largest sap bucket ever: a 1,000-liter (264-gallon) giant that unofficially bested the previous record of a 594-liter (157-gallon) bucket, unveiled at the Elmira (Ontario) Maple Syrup Festival in 2000.