Sugaring season is here. With this crazy warm winter we’ve had, I know some people have been sugaring off and on over the past 2 weeks, but I tapped our trees this past Friday. It looked like we were going to have a stretch of perfect temps for collecting sap. We collected 11 gallons form 6 taps on Friday and Saturday morning. I have another 5 gallons on the boiler now (from yesterday, Sunday was too cold)–on my front porch “Sugar House” as I type this.
We are pretty much following the method we used in the past, but this year we put our nice blue spiles to work. Despite being plastic, they held up great to be pounded in the trees and have held our 5 gallon buckets just great. I am very happy with them. I know many uses small sap buckets, gallon milk jugs, or even mason jars to collect the sap, but I really like using 5 gallon buckets. They can hold a lot more. I never leave them until they are full of course, but my best taps can produce 2-3 gallons over the course of a day. With smaller receptacles, I think I may lose sap when I am gone for longer stretches during the day–like my teaching days. I also like that we are re-purposing something we already have–no need to buy sap buckets.
The chef and I celebrated our 17th anniversary on Valentine’s Day. Since we own a restaurant, we will never spend our anniversary together. We went on a mini-date while our daughter was at school on Thursday. We did not get each other anniversary gifts. Instead, we went and got a 20 gallon stainless steel kettle. We bought the kettle and the propane cooker we use (bought that 2 years ago) at a local Mexican grocery. Mexican groceries are a great place to look for large pots. In Mexico, a huge kettle like this would be used to cook for a large crowd or even to sell tamales or carnitas on street corners. A kettle this big is not cheap, but we know it will get used. It is perfect for boiling sap. Since we can put so much in it, I do not have to keep adding sap to my 5 gallon kettle–slowing the process down. Also, since it is flared, there is more surface area to aid in evaporation–making the whole process quicker.
Other uses we foresee for this kettle are outdoor canning, making huge batches of tomato sauce for canning, cooking for parties, processing chickens, etc. It may not be a romantic present, but I love it. My husband’s willingness to not only indulge my farming whims, but to love it nearly as much as I do, is very romantic.
I brought the “almost syrup” indoors to finish on the stove. I used my canning funnel and the filters I still have from my dairying days to filter the syrup. This first batch is a light golden hue–fancy grade syrup. The syrup will darken up as the season progresses. Now that we have the larger kettle, I am thinking about tapping more trees next year. It would be wonderful if we could use maple syrup for most of our sweetening.
If you are interested in trying this yourself, here is a link to a site that explains the process.
Now, off to make some maple sweetened oatmeal for my breakfast.