Posted by: Silver | March 12, 2012

Highgate to Toronto

Highgate to London:
Distance: 78 km
Ascent: 413 m
Cycling time: 4 hours, 43 minutes

London to Toronto:
Took the train!

I quickly recovered from my ‘eventful’ ride between Amherstburg and Highgate, but sadly, the weather remained my foe, albeit for entirely different reasons. You see, the primary reason for my return to Highgate was to help my former hosts there to bring in the maple syrup harvest, but what I hadn’t quite appreciated was just how weather-dependent this harvesting process is. Most obviously, if it gets too cold, the sap simply freezes in the spiles and ain’t nothin’ comin’ out that day. But even if the temperature is acceptable, the sap won’t saunter up the tree unless the sun is there to coax it, and beyond that, the interactions between weather conditions and sap production get even more complicated…

Which is all a rather roundabout (but hopefully mildly interesting and educational) way of saying that there wasn’t actually much sap to harvest while I was in Highgate. 😦 Fortunately, though, there was at least enough for me to get a taste, of both the process… and the raw sap, straight from the bucket! (For those of you who are interested, it just tastes like very slightly sweet water, but I was advised not to drink too much of it as apparently, the raw sap can be rather unsettling to the stomach, if you know what I mean…)

Being such a huge fan of maple syrup myself, it was absolutely fascinating to see the process by which it is created; it was particularly interesting to discover that the traditional way of clarifying the syrup involves boiling it up with milk and eggs then skimming off the resultant ‘scum’, as apparently, any impurities in the syrup somehow stick to the milk and egg mixture, which then coagulates as it boils. (Note for any vegans reading this: as far as I know, all commercial syrup is clarified using filters, so it’s still acceptable for you to enjoy!) More than anything though, I came away with a much greater appreciation of just how much time and work goes into the creation of my favourite syrup.

But after all too short a time with my lovely Highgate hosts, it was time to head back to London and the final hop before my journey started taking me on to new places again! And the new ‘season’ certainly started with a bang – which is why this blog is a little bit behind again: sorry! Hopefully I will have the time to bring you right up to date with the latest developments soon!

Like I say, if the sap freezes, there's really not much you can do...

It was much warmer in the sugar shack, where the sap was being boiled down to a much syrupier state (syrupier? Can anyone confirm if this is actually a word? I do think it ought to be: sounds rather lovely to me... ;-))

'Sugar shack' seems to be the name given to any building used to make maple syrup, and sometimes, it really is appropriate! After all, why make it any fancier than it needs to be?!

Maple syrup: a beautiful product from a beautiful place!



  1. Hi Silver

    Just catching up on your blog since your return in early Feb.

    As always, your blog is entertaining and joyful to read. I always look forward to the next installments.

    Wishing you all the best and a very successful continued journey in 2012!


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