It was cold again this morning as dawn was breaking — a nippy 20 degrees. Even with the cold, there was a newness in the air. Maybe it was because the birds were singing and calling lustily, as if awakening to love. The Cardinals were particularly noisy, along with a few other species. I could have closed my eyes and imagined myself in the rain forest, with tropical birds serenading the loves of their lives. This year I am intentionally tuning in to the birds. It’s a real treat.The forecast for today was forties and sunshine. This will make the sap run. The sunshine is a key ingredient. Forty degrees and overcast, the sap will run some. Forty degrees and sunshine, and it will be a good day. Can’t wait until late afternoon when it’s time to check the buckets and find out how it ran.
Wow! Our biggest day yet. Just a trifle under 200 gallons of sap. That will put another five gallons of syrup in the cupboards. This is really good for our sixty-three trees — two taps in most of them–one tap in a few. Yard trees — all of them. They really produce–almost double what a woods tree gives. And it looks like we may have a few more good days in the forecast. Below freezing at night, above freezing during the day, and with sunshine. That’s what it takes to make a happy syrup producer.
So, you’d like to try this. It’s not difficult — and by now, there’s plenty of time to prepare for next year’s syrup season. If you have at least one or two Maple trees, give it a whirl. Any Maple will work — even Silver Maple. Doesn’t have to be a Sugar Maple. You can boil the sap down on your kitchen stove, and put some moisture into your house. That’s not a bad thing after the dry air of winter. (Note: This should be limited to a very small operation, like one or two trees. It’s good to get some moisture in the house, but it is possible to get too much. The wallpaper may come loose.)
Sometimes folks ask me how to cook the sap. Do you need to stir it while it’s boiling? How do you know when it’s finished? You do not need to stir it, but occasionally skim off the white foam that develops on the surface. If you have a kitchen thermometer, this will be good enough to know when it’s finished. First, boil some tap water, and check the temperature. Around here, it will be about 212 degrees. Whatever temperature you get for the water, add seven degrees for syrup. Around here, then, syrup is finished at 219 degrees. When it is done, strain it through several layers of cheesecloth, and this will remove a lot of the sugar sand. For personal use, the sugar sand is not a problem, though. Just can the syrup, and let it settle. Use the syrup until you get to the sand. There is nothing harmful about it. At 219 degrees, the syrup is hot enough to seal the jar lids. Just pour it in the jars, put a lid on firmly, and turn it upside down for a couple minutes so the hot syrup can sterilize the lid. That’s it.
This time of year, it’s so good to step away from the electronic devices for a while, and get outside for some fresh air. Tap a few trees, and listen to the birds while you’re out there. Happy tapping.
And that’s all for now, from our lovely home town of Kidron, Ohio, where the pace is a little slower, and the air a little cleaner. Enjoy the spring time. Gardening is just around the corner.