Harvesting liquid gold

Do you know what kind of tree this is?

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We don’t.  Well, we’re reasonably certain it is some sort of maple.  But sugar maple?  Red maple?  Without the leaves, we haven’t much of a clue.  We’ve been looking through tree resources and pondering whether this is furrowed sugar maple bark or ridged and plate-like red maple bark.  And wondering just what plate-like even means…  Whatever this tree and several others like it on this land are, they have been very nicely providing us with some kind of sap over the past week!

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When we had about 2.5 gallons, Josh gathered it together and boiled it down.  It was a small batch so we decided to do this first experiment inside.

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Caden soon reported that it was raining IN the yurt.  Which turned out to be maple sap condensation sprinkling down from the dome…

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So the next batch will be outside!  In any case, the sap was boiling down and starting to take on a darker mapley color.

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Syruping seems to herald that spring is just around the corner… To the children anyway, who decided this was a good time to get out their bathing suits and start practicing their diving board skills while waiting.

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Eventually the syrup was switched to a smaller pot.  Did you know it takes 40+ gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup?

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We were finally at temperature and ready for some taste testing.  Possibly even better than licking cake batter off the spoon.  Taste testers unanimously agreed the maple syrup was ready.  All in all we had a little over one cup of syrup.  Liquid gold…

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And then Josh drank it all…

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Phew, he was kidding.  And we all got to enjoy it on pancakes the next morning.

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Yes, he is about to lick the plate.  It is that good.

Is it because we made it from the nearby trees that makes it so delicious?  I’m not sure that can be the answer… I confess that when we first moved to Maine we were a little disappointed to discover that Maine maple syrup didn’t taste quite as good to us as the New Hampshire maple syrup we grew up with.  We covet the jugs that arrive from New Hampshire with friends and family.  Somehow this maple syrup we made from our Maine trees tasted better than any yet.  Maybe because it was so fresh, made the night before.  I believe it was largely because we didn’t just make maple syrup that night…we made magic…discovering that we were capable of doing this mysterious alchemy process that had been a magical part of our childhoods.

For Josh it evokes going to help at Hank Kenney’s farm in Marlborough, NH, riding on the oxen-pulled wagon and jumping out to check sap levels in buckets, taste-testing with snowballs and standing in the wood-fired warmth of the sugar house.

For me it evokes being a small child in my great-aunt and great-uncle’s giant sugar house in northern Vermont.  Smoke rising out of the enormous central evaporator, looking for all the world like the brewing of a magic potion.  And then later walking down the rural road where I did much of my growing up, past the tap buckets hanging from trees along the road to the little sugar house at the end run by Mr. Martin.  This little shed that he made maple syrup in long after his strength could no longer run his full dairy farm.  The little amber vials sitting on the windowsill to mark the different grades of syrup.  The warmth of the wood burning and the sweet smell of the sap filling the small space.

Like many things of late, we’re not quite certain we’re doing this quite right.  Nonetheless, we’ve somehow created something deliciously sweet from trees!  We’re thankful for friends in the area that help guide the way, who have already been through a few seasons of this process.

You put your buckets up on the south side of the trees, right?

Oops.  We tapped them where it was easiest to get to the bucket!  But this makes sense and next year we’ll be a bit more savvy, using the warmth of the sun on the southern side for the best sap run.

In the meantime, the leaves will come out on these trees and we’ll find out we’ve been making beech tree syrup…

10 thoughts on “Harvesting liquid gold

  1. Oh, wait. That was horrible grammar and spelling. I meant, “I love YOUR writing.” Can you grow some coffee beans out there in nowhereville and mail them to me? My brain needs it.

  2. hehehe, I had to have my dad pick my two trees, because I realized I didn’t know what a maple tree looked like without leaves!
    Now we have a project to complete before next winter, tag all the maple trees!

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