Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sugar Sugar

It is nice to have rather inexpensive resources like these bottles with lids to make my maple syrup look pretty cute.

Now, THAT is what I'm talking about!

The maple sap run has bogged down here in Michigan due to cold weather. I had a few gallons of sap collected and boiled it down Friday night. I was able to fill a few bottles with some very nice, light-colored syrup. The temperature is in the upper thirties (F) today, and the sap has started running again. I am hoping for a few weeks of weather like this so I can collect 30-40 gallons of sap. I am going to construct a temporary outdoor stove so I can boil five to ten gallons at a time in large, flat pans. I have a nice pile of firewood to use a heat source.
My next post will have photos of my outdoor Sugar Shack.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Sap is Running!

OK, I am not running in the photo below!

The sap in the maple trees is running and I spent some time today tapping my trees. Maple sap has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans, and they taught the colonists how to do it. I find it incredible to read about how the Native Americans tapped trees, and found ways to use the slightly sweet liquid. I brought a small jar of sap in and passed around small samples. We toasted Mother Nature and swigged the clear liquid down. Hmmm, I'm not sure I would call the sap exactly sweet, but as Peter, (my son), just said, "There was a suggestion of sweetness."

Tapping a Maple

You want to make sure you are actually tapping a maple tree! I'm not sure what oak syrup tastes like, but it isn't exactly a popular item. I selected four large maples and drilled a 3/8" hole two inches deep, about four feet from the ground in each of them. Three of them immediately started dripping sap. The fourth one didn't drip at all, so I plugged the hole with a stick, and tapped a different tree, which began flowing immediately. I have seven large maple trees, and feel fortunate that someone had foresight over fifty years ago to plant them.

After drilling the hole, I gently tapped in a spile so it is nice and snug. Don't hit it in too far, or you will split the tree and cause a large opening that will lose a lot of sap and perhaps allow insects inside.

The sap immediately began to flow and drip into the bucket. I have lids for the buckets to keep out precipitation and other stuff. The drips were falling at approximately one per second. One of the trees was dripping at twice that rate.

Ruth captured all of these photos. I especially like the one below showing the sap in mid-flight. The sap is slightly sweetened water, chock full of minerals.

Watch the sap falling into the bucket! Each tap will produce about 10 gallons of sap. It takes between 30 and 40 gallons of sap to boil down into pure maple syrup.

I love the way this bucket looks on my maple tree. I am only putting out four taps, hoping to end up with about a gallon of syrup. I may add more, but I don't want to get overwhelmed!

Get to Work!
I politely asked the maple trees to share their sap with me. I will have to come up with a way to reward them for their gift.