March – Precious Drops of Liquid Gold

We’ve tapped our two maple trees – but I think we started too late.  Nevertheless, we got four gallons of sap.  It looks like pure water and taste like… water.  I expected at least a hint of sweetness or a tint of color.

We set up the outdoor burner, connected the propane tank and got out the turkey roasting pan.  I poured two gallons in and started boiling, adding more sap as evaporation would allow.  Six hours later, after sitting outside in the cold on the patio, I had two quart jars of lemonade looking liquid.

The next night I emptied those two quarts into a pot on the stove in the kitchen.  I figured by then most of the evaporation had already happened, and cooking it down further wouldn’t make my kitchen “that” sticky.  I boiled and simmered and boiled and simmered and kept measuring the temperature.  As more evaporated, I moved it to a smaller pan, and then to an even smaller pan.  And I kept boiling and simmering and taking it’s temperature.  Finally, after about three more hours of undivided attention – lest I burn the whole batch, I had SYRUP!  Yes, I tested it with the hygrometer and did some fancy math calculations that involve a chart and testing the temperature vs. the Baume scale and the Brix scale – but it was officially at the syrup stage!

I very carefully poured it into ONE of the 8 oz syrup jars (I bought a case of twelve, just to be optimistic) — and it filled it about two-thirds of the way.  Yes, four gallons of sap gave us about two-thirds of a cup of syrup.  But it’s really AWESOME syrup.   It’s thick and rich and tastes like maple syrup!  And the kitchen smells like a Waffle House.  I can’t wait to make some waffles to go with it!

Cooking down four gallons of sap.
Yes, there is snow on the ground – but it’s time to boil the sap.
All we got was two quarts of boiled down sap.
So we cooked it some more.
And the put it in a little tiny pan and cooked it some more.
Until we got about two-thirds of a cup of REAL syrup. The phone is to give you a perspective — this is not a very big jar — and it’s only half full — but boy will it taste good on our waffles!

March – Another Hobby on the Farm

Chris gets a big green tractor, I get some blue plastic tubes.  But it’s okay – I’m as excited about my new project as he is about his.

We have two very large Maple trees on the farm and I wanted to tap them and make Maple syrup.  I went to the aptly named “Tap My Trees” website and ordered the ten-pack of spiels (the things you put into the trees) and blue tubing so the sap can run into milk jugs.  Then I’ll need a turkey fryer (or at least the burner part) so I can boil the sap outside,  until it gets close to the syrup stage.  Then I can bring it inside to “finish it off” and use the hygrometer (which I also bought) to tell when it’s at the right sugar content to make awesome Maple syrup – from our own trees – on our own farm.  Of course, this is all in theory.

I’ve been waiting for those spring days when the temperatures are above 40, but the nights are below freezing.  This week seems to fit – so Chris drilled two holes in each of two trees.  We hammered the spiels (the drain-type things) into the drill holes, attached the blue plastic tubing and put the other end of the tube into empty milk jugs.  Now we wait — and collect the sap every night.

It can take 12 gallons of sap to make one quart of Maple syrup.  That’s almost as bad as the ratio of collecting those green black walnuts husks, shelling them and collect a few little shelled nut meats.  But I guess anything worth having – is worth putting the work into it.  We will see how this goes — pancakes, anyone?

Drilling the holes
We hammered the spiels into the tree and connected the tubing to some milk jugs.
And now we wait…
For that precious sap that we collect every day until we have enough to boil it down. Fingers crossed.