Mountain Grove man keeping sweet tradition alive with maple syrup

MOUNTAIN GROVE, Mo. – One man in Mountain Grove is helping keep a cherished American tradition alive with the art of making maple syrup straight from the tree.

Allen Marrocco found his love for making the sweet treat after a former co-worker at Missouri Baptist Hospital in Sullivan brought him a pint of homemade maple syrup. Marrocco learned how to make maple syrup on his Indian Creek rental property in Lonedell, and says he has been hooked ever since.

“Once you do it, it’s like an addiction. It’s a passion,” Marrocco told The Heartlander. “There’s just something about it – making it and then giving it to people.”

Marrocco’s son once suggested building a “sugar shack” for a homeschool project, so he began collecting skid wood, flat rocks, gravel and other necessities. Once the sugar shack was put together, Marrocco began holding makeshift maple syrup festivals at his family home. 

Since moving to Mountain Grove, Marrocco has not had the chance to hold a maple syrup festival at his home, but says he eventually will. Plenty of school teachers and locals have reached out after hearing about the “Legend of Lonedell” – a nickname the locals in Franklin County gave Marrocco due to his syrup-making hobby. 

At each festival, children help collect the sap before Marrocco walks them through his syrup-making process. Marrocco’s wife would then make a sausage, pancake and hash brown meal for guests who were free to have all of the maple syrup they could handle.

“My goal was and will always be, I [will] never sell it. I always give it to people who come to the festival or someone who treats me fair. I feel touched to give to people.”

The process is pretty simple and only requires milk or water jugs along with a tap. Marrocco says you can buy a tap or make your own, which is the route he took. In order to cause sap to drip down, a half inch drill can be used to drill slightly upwards into a tree.

Once sap has been collected, it is boiled over a stove to 219 degrees and begins to thicken. If the sap gets any hotter, it can turn into maple candy or maple sugar.

Marrocco told The Heartlander he begins tapping trees on the first of January, and says the colder it is, the better for his process. According to Marrocco, the best temperature to procure sap in is around 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The first sap of the season is a lighter color like honey, but the warmer it gets outside, the darker the sap gets and begins growing microorganisms. Tapping maple trees will not harm their growth, but Marrocco says you can never tap the same hole again because it turns into straight bark.

“When it heals up, it looks like a belly button. The next year you will see where you tapped before.”

To view a video on “The Legend of Lonedell”, visit this link.

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