Not deferential enough: Running the sap

Posted Tuesday, February 25, 2014 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: Running the sap

by Gina Hamilton

It's been a long, tiring, tedious winter.  It's been a winter of pain; we lost my husband's father after a long illness, and our son has been suffering, too. It's been a winter of unexpected financial expenses with tiresome timing.

And it just seems to go on and on and on.

But today, even in the midst of the cold and the snowy ground, an annual miracle is quietly taking place behind the rough bark of every tree.

I tapped our maples today, and despite the freezing temperatures, shimmering drops of sap began to drip into the buckets.

The first extraordinary sweetness of the year is about to begin.

When you are making maple syrup, the first thing to do is find a place to store your sap. Bringing it inside, unless you have adequate refrigerator space, and no one does, is a nonstarter. Get a new trash container and bury it as deeply as possible in the snow.

Find your sap buckets, your spiles, your buckets and lids, and scrub them all out. They've been in the barn or the shed for a whole year; there are spiders and leaves in them. 

Then take your bit brace and drill into your trees; when the sap begins to flow, take one of your spiles and hammer it in until the sap runs down the metal.  Attach the bucket to the spile and make sure the lid is on.

Then wait.

Check every day. When the buckets are half full, pour them into your trash container.

Watch the sap rise.

Then on a weekend day in March, when it's sunny enough but not too warm, make your maple cooker.

Myself, I cook it on a camp stove, in a lasagna pan, letting the water from the sap boil off outdoors and pouring the near-syrup into a pan for finishing up in the kitchen. But then, I am tapping just a few trees; I won't have to spend all day and night and all the next day tending it.

Inside, boil it until it has the consistency of, well, syrup. No need to do anything fancy, just boil it and keep checking the temperature.

Pour the syrup into prepared - boiled and dry - maple syrup bottles. You can use these from year to year, unless you give it away, in which case you'll have to buy some new every year. Seal them tight and put them in your jelly cabinet, and don't forget to label them with the year.

That night, forget dinner. Instead, have breakfast, with pancakes and eggs and applewood smoked bacon.

And fresh maple syrup.

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