Maple Syrup Cooking House, 1945
In the early 1920ís our Grandfather, William Simpson, along with his partner Edward Hunt skied and snow shoed their way several miles through deep snow in the Blue Hills wilderness of Northwestern Wisconsin to setup a Maple Sugar camp in a location my Grandfather called the Rocky Ridge. He was not the first to make Maple Sugar here. Many years before the Ojibwa Indians came to this area to make Maple Sugar and dig for the precious rocks called pipestone. They used the Maple Sugar as a nutritious sweetener for treats, cooking, and a means of providing the energy needed to survive the long Wisconsin winters. Pipestone, a soft red stone found in the Blue Hills along with a few other areas of the Midwest, was held sacred by the Ojibwas and was used to make religious objects and for trade with other tribes. These resources along with bountiful game for hunting caused the Ojibwas to call this area in the Blue Hills the Happy Hunting Grounds.
Modern science is now starting to find out what the Native Americans knew by experience, Maple Sugars are an excellent source of natural energy and minerals. Scientists have shown us that maple sugar is a balanced form of positive and negative sugars that contain a large variety of minerals and vitamins depending on the mineral content of the soils where the maple trees grow.
Our family has been producing Maple Syrup in the Happy Hunting Grounds of the Blue Hills for the last 80 years. Even through the collection and processing methods have changed from birch bark vessels used by the Indians, to horses and sleds used by my Grandfather, and now to tractors and sap pipelines, the minerals of the pipestone strewn Blue Hills still combine with the fresh waters of Lake Superior watershed to provide the Rocky Ridge Maple trees with the raw materials they need to produce some of the most nutritious and tasteful Maple Sugar available.
It takes between 30 and 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup. While the Ojibwas used to cook the sap by placing hot rocks in the birch bark kettles, at Rocky Ridge we use two 16-foot long wood fired evaporators to boil down the sap. Using the plentiful firewood in our area helps reduce the syrup prices along with our dependence on foreign energy sources.
Maple Syrup Cooking House, 2005