By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Feb. 16, 2011

February is the perfect time of year to make maple syrup, according to Bill Littleton and his friend Curtis Petty.

The good buddies have been making maple syrup at Littleton’s tire shop on East College Street for the past five years. This year, Littleton hopes to get about two gallons from their efforts.

“You can find us cooking anything down here, from maple syrup to road kill,” joked Littleton, owner of Bill’s Tire Service in Dickson.

Littleton and Petty started making this year’s batch last week, which yielded about a quart of syrup, and continued their efforts Monday.

“We do this about Valentine’s Day,” said Petty, who’s been making maple syrup his entire life. “It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.”

Littleton explained that the sap starts to rise through the maple trees at the start of February, and that the temperature outside needs to be below freezing during the night, and 40-45 degrees during the day for the sap to run throughout the tree.

The friends draw the maple sap from a tree behind Littleton’s shop, and from three in Petty’s yard across town.

Littleton noted that you have to tap the tree on its south side so the syrup can drain. The tree isn’t harmed in the process, and the holes begin to mend themselves after the tap is taken out.

Once they have enough maple sap, which is actually a clear liquid, Littleton and Petty will heat the sap to boiling and cook it until it condenses into the caramel-colored syrup.

“It’s just an evaporation process,” said Petty. “Crank up the heat until you get a good, rolling boil.”

They boil the sap on two burners in Littleton’s garage and typically cook about 20 gallons of sap a day, yielding about half a gallon of syrup.

Petty also noted that if you cook the sap long enough you can make candy. If you cook the sap for too long, the final product will result in a granular sugar.

“If you make candy, you have to fine tune the process and really monitor the sap as it boils,” said Littleton.

The friends don’t sell their syrup, however, but will hand out a few jars to friends.

“We’ll keep making syrup until the sap quits running,” said Littleton. “We’re making it for pancakes and ice cream.”