Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Maple-Sugaring Time

by Birch

Maple syrup production is as easy as boiling water—a lot of water. We finally decided to tap the enormous sugar maple in the front yard with the five diverging trunks. Fern and Blossom helped me check it's vitals—leaves collected under the snow at the tree's base had a smooth, five-lobed pattern that matched the photo in the Audubon guide. What if I try to tap an oak or something nuts like that? It was a sugar maple, I was sure. (Well, almost sure.)

Fern and Blossom were encouraging even as they worried that I was drilling holes in their favorite tree. I chose a sunny spot about two feet above the ground and used a cordless drill to make a 3/8-inch hole in the truck. A few turns of the drill through the bark and the sap 

began to flow. Two inches into the trunk was enough to secure the metal taps I had bought from our farm store. I hammered one in the trunk and hung an old pot on built in hook and it began to fill. I drilled anther hole in another trunk and hung another pot on the hook. After two hours the pots were full and I began filling a two-gallon glass container so we could keep the sap cold—they say fresh sap can sour like milk if it's not kept cold. 

We decided to boil the sap outside so as not to fill the house with sticky steam, and filled up our five gallon canning pot and lit the grill's side burner. After a few hours, about two gallons had evaporated and we had more raw syrup to add. We kept up the process, stirring 

the sap and adding more until we had loaded a total of nine gallons. Fourteen hours later, and a whole-lot-of-steam about two cups remained in the pot leaving a syrup that coated the back of a wooded spoon: Maple syrup!