Friday, March 14, 2014

lazy maple syrup

I have gotten a bit lazy with the maple syrup production this week.  It all started out so well.  I had come to believe that Spring had sprung.  I could actually hear the ping ping ping of sap dripping into our 16 metal buckets while I stood outside the back door.

And the kids were on board, happily and enthusiastically helping us collect the sap from the buckets each day.

And then, temperatures dropped, ice and a bit of snow fell from the sky, and the sap...stopped...dripping.

And so, essentially at this point, five days after tapping the trees, with today being well below freezing, we have had four days of sap collection.  After looking in one bucket and finding only a small thin circle of ice, and seeing the temperature and experiencing the wind chill personally, I have decided there will be no sap collection today.  I am doing inside things.

But somehow, in these four days, I have made syrup, even though the new woodstove/evaporator contraption is still in the barn, covered in a falling apart bale of straw.  Jonathan and I have plans to carry it into the backyard and attach a longish stove pipe in order to carry the smoke up and away from our faces and to keep the soot out of the syrup.

But he has been busy at school.  And helping the kids with their projects this week.  And so, I took the lazy approach as the sap started flooding into the kitchen.

As the sap arrived, I poured it gradually into a large cast iron pot on top of our woodstove, boiling it down until I could empty another sap container into it.

Since ye Olde Woodstove in the kitchen is fired up almost constantly, I am really expending no extra resources to do this.  Yes, it's true that this pot was boiling down gallons of sap into pints of syrup.  This while a contractor discussed with us how best to make our heating system more efficient -- his suggestions rely heavily upon eliminating moisture from our home and there he stood right next to us in the kitchen during this boiling.  I said nothing and poured another quart of sap into the pot as he went out the door.

I have two containers of syrup, from two days of collection each.  The first one was, well, my first, and therefore a bit botched.  I overheated it by 1.5 degrees.  It is amazing the difference this can make.  I had remembered that the kids thought some of the syrup last year was too runny.  Having had some success with heating my candy boards to a bit higher temperature than was called for for the bees, I thought, what can it hurt?  Well, it is still delicious, the flavor is exceptional, but it goes on like honey actually.  We are using our honey wand to drizzle it over our pancakes.

For the second batch, just completed a few minutes ago, I followed the instructions.  And it seems a bit thin.

But again?  Delicious.  Yes, I did, I did wipe the pot clean with my finger.

So, despite my grumbling about the delayed Spring and the temporary stop in sap production here, I have very little to complain about.  I have two jars full of syrup after only four days, with very little effort beyond a few minutes each at the stove with a candy thermometer.

And so, I retract my complaints.

Perhaps this weekend we will get the backyard evaporator up and running.  Until then, I will be in the warm, and humid, kitchen flipping pancakes.

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