Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sundays in My City: Maple Syrup

Unknown Mami

A few weeks ago, we (and by that I mean Mr.4444) 
decided tap our maple trees in anticipation of the annual sap run. 
The process is pretty interesting. First, Mr.4444 drills holes in the trees

and hammers the "spiles" in.

I just observe the process and provide moral support. 
This year, I wondered what happens to the poor tree 
after the tap's been pulled out of the "wound," so-to-speak, the year before. 
Mr.4444 explained that the tree heals itself,
 so I looked around for evidence of past taps, and low and behold...

Interesting, huh?!

Anyway, after the taps are inserted, we hang either a bucket or a bag and wait:


Milo helped observe the process, too.

Steve wondered when the deck would be free of snow. 

(I did, too, and weeks later, we still have plenty of snow on our deck and in our woods, even though it's disappeared from most everywhere else in the area.)

A week or so after the taps went in, the sap began to run 

and run. 

For days and days (more than a week) the sap ran.  
Each day, after school, we emptied the 21 taps that we'd set-up. 
This is one day's worth of sap from a happy tree that faces south.
I took this shot on probably the best day we had, so this is about a gallon and a half of sap.

In case you're curious, ideal sap run conditions involve overnight temperatures below freezing and warm daytime temperatures rize above freezing. For us, the season lasts about two weeks.

In years past, we hoped for 40 gallons, since sap boils down at a 40-to-1 ratio; 
40 gallons of sap boils down to one gallon of syrup. 
This year, we gathered  about 80 gallons of our own sap 
and received another 100+ gallons from a friend who'd had more than he wanted. 

Needless to say, Mr.4444 has been cooking syrup for days.
It's almost a good thing that it was syrup-cooking time, because Kendall and I were gone to Chicago overnight, so Mr.4444 had something to keep him busy while we were gone.
When we got home, look who we found cooking syrup! 

Yes, that's my husband, the kid at heart.
What? You didn't know that I am married to Buddy the Elf?
If that's the case, then you should watch this video.

You may be wondering about the cooker. 
No, it is not a meth cooker (but thanks for the laugh, Hannah!) 
 It's a booyah kettle, borrowed from our local Boy Scout troop. 

Cooking syrup with a wood-burning set-up is the most practical way to do it.
We also use a propane burner that uses a lot of propane, 
so although this hobby seems inexpensive, if you have to use propane, it's not.
Cooking the sap indoors in small amounts is okay, but it not recommended in large amounts,
because it produces a lot of humidity.

You may also have noticed the copper tubing running into the kettle. 

The tube leads from a cooler full of filtered sap into the boiling pot of sap. 
This method (Mr.4444's  ingenious idea) allows him to slowly add new sap to the boiling sap, thereby maintaining a fairly consistent boil. 
(In the past, after the sap boiled down some, he'd add more, 
but it would cause the temperature to drop and require a lot of time to bring it back up to boiling.)

This year, with Mr.4444's new method, the syrup is boiling down twice as fast as in the past.
That said, it's very time-consuming.

Good thing Buddy was there to keep him company.

For more scenes from cultures all over the globe,
visit Unknown Mami's Sundays in My City.

1 comment:

  1. Why do I find this to be so exciting?! :) Very cool! Will you have some to sell, then, in June? I'll happily donate to keep the Elf in business!!


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