CacheCrazy.Com: Guess What Time Of Year It Is?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guess What Time Of Year It Is?

WELCOME TO THIRSTY THURSDAY!!!!

Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, sit back and get that fire going.

When my son Levi  and my daughter Katy's birthdays roll around they are excited about having cake and ice cream, as well as receiving some birthday gifts. Even though I am excited for them there is something else that I get excited about. MAPLE SUGARING TIME.

That's right. It's time to make maple syrup. I usually try and start putting out my spiles (taps) around their birthdays, which are the 19th and 20th of February. For the last two years I was not able to tap any trees due to my heart surgeries and some other health issues. This year would be different though. I am healthy and ready to tap some trees.

I set out by cleaning my 55 gallon plastic barrels and getting the hoses ready. Even though I cleaned the barrels the last time I used them I like to have them extra clean. Then I took them out to the trees that are in our front yard. These trees have always yielded a fair amount of sap for us. These trees are sugar maple trees and they are really huge. I usually put about 2 to 3 taps on each one. This year I decided to only put 2 taps per tree.

The next step is to actually drill the holes for the taps. I use my electric drill to so this. Sometimes I have to use my old handheld drill if my batteries run dry. I drill up at an angle and then "tap" the tap into the tree. I then attach my hoses and run them to the barrels. I have the barrels sitting on blocks or stumps of wood. I need to get them up off of the ground so I can get a pitcher underneath of the faucet I have attached to the bottom of the barrel. This makes for easy emptying of the barrels.

                My tools of the trade

             Plastic tubing, spiles (taps), and a tee connector

Once this is done all I need is some warm days and a little sunshine. For a good run you want days that are above freezing and nights that dip down below 32 degrees. This way the sap stops flowing at night and then as the sun heats up the trees the sap begins to flow. When I am drilling the holes I have to have everything ready because the sap will usually start to flow immediately. It's nice to hear the "drip", "drip", "drip" into the barrel. Sometimes it's more like "gush" on a good day.


                       This is my kind of stethoscope. Dr. I hear dripping in my ears.



With this setup I can allow the barrels to collect all week long and then focus on boiling the sap down on the weekend. Last week I built my little maple forge to boil the sap down on. It is the first time I have done it this way. A friend told me how to build it so I wanted to try it. I bight some cinder blocks and some stove pipe. I lined the blocks up in a U shape and made two rows of them. Then I added some sand to the bottom to protect the driveway. Next I added the stove pipe and it was done. Now to start boiling it down.

                        The secured stove pipe


With it ready to go I put it to the test on Friday night. I had about 8 1/2 gallons of sap collected. Now I normally would not boil that little down, but I wanted to give it a test run. Here's how it looked.

                A nice fire going and it is starting to boil.

What a beautiful fire and look at that head of steam coming off.

                         We're rolling now folks.

The pan on the left is on the back of the forge. The one on the right is near the front. I fill the back one and as it boils down I move it to the front. I keep doing this until I have used up all of my collected sap. This is actually the last of it. Once it gets down to just one pan all I have to do is finish it off. For this test I did not finish it outside. I took it inside and finished it on the stove where I had better control since I had so little sap to go.

I ended up with a small pan on the stove in the house. As it began to boil down into syrup I started boiling my jars I store it in. I also boil the lids and get all of my stuff ready. To test it to see if it is totally done I use an old fashioned method. I dip a spatula into the syrup and lift it out slowly. If the syrup drips off of the end of it it's not ready. I keep on boiling it down. As it boils down I keep dipping the spatula in and lifting it out. When I lift it out and the syrup slides off of the end in a sheet I know it is done. Then I filter it and begin bottling it.

Now I will admit that I have to do several taste tests to make sure it is just about right, and then finally done. I begin pouring it into the hot bottles and putting the lids on. Some of the bottles I use are old Cracker Barrel bottles. These make nice little gifts to give away. I also use different sizes of other glass bottles. Once I have a jar filled up I put the lid on and then lay it on it's side. I leave it that way until it is totally cool. When they are totally cool I stand them upright. They are then sealed and ready to be labeled.

I sure hope this year gives us a good yield. We have done as little as 2 gallons and as much as 6 gallons. Each year produces a different amount, and the color changes during the season. You can go from Amber, which is almost clear, to a dark, which is, well dark.

The bottle on the left is a dark amber and the right is light amber. The one on the right is from this year's first batch, and the one on the left is from the end of the year the last time we tapped.


The three bottles to the left of the dark one are what my 8 1/2 gallons produced. Well minus the other two small bottles I gave my son and a bottle I gave my mother-in-law. It totaled about a pint and a half.

The sap to syrup ratio is anywhere from 40 to 50 gallons of sap for just one gallon of syrup. That's why the real stuff is so expensive. Yes that is a lot of hard work, but for such a sweet reward it's worth it. Oh, I forgot to mention how good it is. So I'll just tell you; IT IS SOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!  Honey, where are the pancakes? I'm getting hungry.

PS. Did I mention that there is a leap day event coming up and there are going to be door prizes? Guess what I'm giving away?

6 comments:

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

I'm in for this door prize! This is one of my favorite posts ever! I've always wanted to see the real maple syrup process from tap to bottle and this was really interesting. What a lot of work, but I bet it's kinda fun to do.

Dave DeBaeremaeker said...

Maple syrup is awesome. I've had the chance to make my own and it is a great experience all around.

I prefer the darker stuff myself - seems to have more flavour.

Big_Dog1970 said...

Can I buy some?

Now I'm craving pancakes.....LOL

Ann said...

Wish you were nearer! We did our weekly shopping this morning, we noticed in the supermarket a 330ml bottle of Canadian maple syrup was £4.95. Yikes!.

That was interesting to read how you collect it etc.

Shell said...

I really cannot wait to try this. We've got 2.5 wooded acres, mostly maple. Maybe I'll be ready by next year!

BLOODHOUNDED said...

Maple gathering eh? Well, it looks like one of those methamphetamine cooking contraptions. You sure are happy all the time? HMMMMMMM...... I think I'm on to something? Maybe one of those "Incense" burners or some type of synthetic drug operation going on?
Nope! Just some good old fashioned maple syrup!
I LOVE this post! Great job!

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