Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

March is a busy time of year for our farm, even though it’s still cold. This particularly cold and harsh winter has left snow still blanketing the shadier fields. Ice patches coat the areas by the barn and the house in large plates that sink when you step on them, and deep pockets of mud are forming everywhere. Mud season is not far off. Even though it’s cold, the trees are warming up, and that’s when we begin our maple syrup season.
We have old-style metal buckets and taps on our big maples, with lids to protect the sap from anything falling in. The sap will begin to flow when the temperatures during the day are above freezing. During this time, pressure in the trees causes the sugary sap to rise up, but the nights need to be below freezing to create the pressure that makes the sap run. We try to be ready with the buckets in place a little before that time, so we don’t miss the sap flow. Because the sap stops flowing when it gets too warm, there is a small window for gathering sap. Like everything on our farm, there is a season, and we have to be ready for it to reap the rewards.
Once the sap begins to flow, we collect it every night from the buckets to add to a larger bucket kept in a cool place. Because you need around 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, every drop is precious. If you don’t collect your sap it will freeze, or worse, over flow. When we’ve gathered enough, it goes into a large wood-fired evaporator to boil off the water. It’s a long day of feeding the fire while the water boils off. When enough water has boiled off, usually to around 219 degrees, you will be left with maple syrup.
Like growing organic apples, it’s a lot of work but always worth it. As soon as the syrup is finished, we like to have it in an egg cream with some local milk, or drizzled on top of our oatmeal for breakfast, with some diced apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It’s amazing that such wonderful food comes out of such a bleak time of year!

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