March 1, 2013

Making Maple Syrup

I just read a letter about New Englanders readying their equipment for maple syrup season. It reminded me of long ago when we helped Monte's dad make maple syrup in Wisconsin. We didn't do it a lot cuz it's impossible to plan "vacation time" when you never know when the sap will start running.

Tho Monte's cousins have established modern ways of maple syrup making and creating businesses, Monte's dad did it the old fashioned way. He hung buckets on the trees, rather than having hoses run to holding tanks in sheds. Riding the 4-wheeler thru-out the day and night to collect full buckets AND to keep the fire stoked under the large flat boiler pan, was work. It was all done out in the open and not a shed with stove burners. He wasn't doing it for a business, just enough for the family. Emery grew up on a homestead there and maple syrup was their main sweetener, so he'd gotten a bit sick of it. But moving back to the homestead and having Grandkids (and a curious wife of his son - ME) ask about the old day experiences kinda made him want to do it again.

Did you know it takes 40 gallons of sap to cook down to 1 gallon of syrup? The taste of the cold sap with a hint of maple flavor is very good and refreshing. And if you've read Laura Ingals Wilder books you'll know there's something called "sugar snow". It's an extra surge of sap run after the season is basically over - just a bit of freeze and thaw. They'd celebrate by making syrup from it and eating it over snow like a snow-cone.

I'm going to post a string of old photos from our experience.

Travis straining sap into old milk cans in the 4-wheeler

Travis and sap in milk cans on 4-wheeler

Grandpa talking to Travis

Collecting maple tree sap

Grandpa Emery and Heather riding the 4-wheeler

Me with Travis collecting sap from tapped maple trees

Monte's dad - Grandpa Emery

Heather with tree sap collecting pail

Travis by the boiling area checking on the fire

Grandpa Emery, little Dawson, and Travis boiling down the maple sap for syrup

Memories? The brisk out-of-doors with no mosquitoes, tics, or black flies; identifying tracks of animals in the mud; beaver coming out of dens on the breaking up ice ponds; wood smoke; pancakes with fresh syrup . . .

We don't have hard maples in Colorado. We still have some jars left, tho it's been years, that we're saving . . . Not sure for what . . . But it reminds us . . .

Shared with: Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday
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