05 March 2016

Boil, Boil, Boil

Licking out the bowls after we have a finished product.
I confess, I'm not a fan of winter, or at least the end of it. It's been cold, dreary and grey a little too long for my liking and by the time it does start to thaw, the mud is incredibly obnoxious. There is a silver lining though and that's maple syrup season.
Look at the sap flow!
This year, we were a little more prepared to collect sap. I saved milk jugs and Jack had marked all the usable maple trees before the leaves fell off so we'd know which trees to tap. Then, towards the end of February, when the nights dipped below freezing but the days were warmer and above freezing, we put the taps in the trees and waited for the sap to flow.
Henry "helping" collect sap.
Usually once a day, we head outside, right before Evelyn is dropped off by the school bus, and we drag a big bucket around to collect the sap. It comes out clear, slightly sweet and on good days, it's quite abundant. We aren't the only ones who enjoy it either--plenty of ants and bugs congregate around the tap site to get a taste. As long as they don't fall in what we're taking with us, we're fine with sharing.
Boil, boil, boil.
Once we've drug the gallons and gallons of sap inside, it's a matter of filtering, boiling, then filtering and boiling again, until the sap is reduced to a rich amber color and has a characteristic maple-y taste. The process isn't hard, but it requires periodic supervision--we were reminded the hard way when Jack tested boiling it on a turkey fryer powered by propane. We forgot about it and it burned to a black crisp. Oops. So, we're back to boiling it inside on the stove, which makes our house as hot and humid as the Amazon rainforest. But, when it's cold outside, no one complains.
Mmm...Claire likes it straight from the tree.
It never ceases to amaze me how much abundance the earth has to offer--we've already made over a gallon of syrup and have shared quite a bit of it, and the sap is still flowing. I'm excited for spring, but fresh maple syrup on pancakes or waffles makes enduring the last bit of winter doable and a bit more sweet.

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