After a full day slaving over the evaporator (umm, not really, I more or less just sat there), I can say that homemade maple syrup is worth it. It has a much rounder, whole flavor than any syrup I’ve ever tasted. Plus, after we brought it in from outside to finish it on the stove, the whole house was filled with the delicious aroma of maple. (And then I burnt two eggs and everything just smelled acrid. Go figure.)
Anyway, I shared the images of us doing our middle of the night tapping – here’s the rest of it. A couple of our relatives sent us taps to put into the trees, and we were able to use them on 6 of our sugar maples. One of these trees has produced next to nothing for sap, but the other 5 are flowing without stop.
We probably had something close to 40 gallons of sap. I know, I know, we should have been measuring better. Oh well, that’s for next year. It’s still flowing, although it’s slowed down since the day time high is in the 60s and it’s no longer below freezing at night. Still, 40 gallons of sap should get us a gallon of maple syrup. So, we put up the evaporator. It was nothing fancy, just cinderblocks and a stove pipe.
The wood we’d been storing in the barn wasn’t all that dry, and it was taking awhile to get the fire going. Our neighbor, who was excited to notice the buckets hanging off our trees, stopped over as we were working on it. All that seemed to be happening was just the ‘CLICK CLICK CLICK’ of the lighter. He pointed out that our spruce trees would make excellent fire starter as the spruce sap catches flame easily.
…. Really? I never knew that!
The dead branches from the bottom of the spruce trees went ‘SNAP SNAP SNAP.’
Again the lighter went ‘CLICK CLICK CLICK.’
And this time…. FWOOOOOM!
The fire was going! We set two pans in. The one closer to the stove pipe boiled down faster, so once it had reduced I transferred in the sap from the other pan, and then filled that pan with fresh sap. It took hours, and we only got through about 10-15 gallons.
We changed into shorts, because it WAS sixty degrees, after all.
We got anxious and decided to try the raw sap instead of waiting for syrup.
We pogo sticked.
And the sap went from clear…
… to darker….
Once we transferred the syrup to the stovetop inside, it didn’t take long before it was done and we had just under a quart of maple syrup to show for it.
And we had maple syrup with our pancakes this morning. Even better, this was not just done with our homemade maple syrup, but the pancakes were made with our own duck eggs too!
I think today will go faster and we’ll have more to show for it. I wasn’t on top of the fire as I should have been, and there were several points where the sap ceased boiling. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the remaining 25-30 gallons through a little bit more quickly today.
Overall, it was great making maple syrup. There’s just something about taking part in the changing seasons and spending time outside, relishing the warmer weather and the lengthening daylight that’s a difficult feeling to put into words. Being able to work on something restful rather than work on projects (we have a LOT of those that we’re in the midst of) has been a great way to recharge while still accomplishing something. It’s a peaceful joy which is fleeting, as the other signs of the coming spring aren’t so quiet and restful.
Those signs are in Flora and Pepper. As I was trimming their hooves by the fire, several things were clear. One, they are both fat. Two, they have that ‘third trimester pregnancy waddle’ going on. Three, both of them have been developing udders. This month, we rest so we can enjoy syrup. Next month, we work so we can enjoy milk!