Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back Yard Sugarin'

We made Maple Syrup this year. "We" being a relative term (more on that later). See this picturesque scene of the tin buckets hanging from the trees in the woods?  
These are not our trees pictured below, nor our taps...

...because I didn't make it out to the taps this spring - not once! It was a busy, busy month and I was out of town for a three day weekend, plus incredibly busy at work. So, in lieu of our own tree tap photos, I borrowed these two pretty images from google images on the world wide web.

We tap our trees with 5-gallon plastic dill-pickle buckets that my brother-in-law gets from Burger King. Cliff emptied the 5-gallon plastic buckets daily into great big plastic soybean-oil barrels, which he hauled around in the back of our Polaris Ranger. Then on the weekends, he transferred the barrels into the back of his truck and drove them over to our friends, the Murphy's house so the sap could be cooked down in the big cooker. There was no sense in both of us running cookers at our houses, so we decided to work as a team and cook all of the sap together.   

Cliff's parents, my parents and my girl friend C even came over to the Murphy's to see the cooking operation. It was a neat set-up and all of the overseers meant lots of ideas about the best way to monitor the temperature, keep the fire even and not too hot, etc.

That's my Dad in the pic above, looking at the barrel stove that was re-purposed just for this.

Most of the folks in the photo below are curious observers and friends. The real hardy sap cookers were Colin and Keith. Cliff collected and hauled sap every single day and cooked whenever he could make time to be there. Lots of people had a hand in the process, and it turned into a bit of a community event. Of course, our friend Missy deserves a lot of credit for keeping their home running while Colin was stoking the fire outside too - lots of people hanging out in their yard, enjoying the timeless "back yard sugarin" tradition. Luckily, we had some beautiful, sunny weather.   

The collected sap was poured in small amounts into a warming pan (the smaller pan on the top of the barrel stove). The barrel stove was filled with wood and contained the fire that cooked the sap into syrup. Once the sap in the warming pan was warmed up enough that it wouldn't cool down the hot sap too much, the spigot on the warming pan was opened so the warm sap was added to the hot cooking sap that was in the longer pan on top of the barrel stove. When the sap was almost completely cooked down to "syrup" it was transferred into a smaller kettle where it was brought to just the right temperature before being bottled.

In the end, that clear, sticky tree sap, had transformed into sweet, smokey, golden, delicious pure maple syrup. We've had more waffles and pancakes in the past few weeks than we had had in months. I've always been a big fan of pure maple syrup and not much of a fan of the store-bought pancake syrup, but I have to say, this syrup is even tastier than any other pure maple syrup we've had recently. It is so so delicious.

So golden and smokey and sweet.

It's like they say... liquid gold...

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