My morning began long before the rooster crowed. My dear hubby and diligent fire builder started his day even earlier. The morning was cold and the pre-dawn sky was spitting a fine snow in our faces. Working by the light of our headlamps, we stoked a raging fire and put the sap on. This was a fine day for maple syrup making. We were up early because it was our first “boil off” of the season and we were both eager to try out our new “rig”. After years and years (and years) of making do in regards to equipment (long ago I even went so far as to cook down sap on the wood cookstove indoors, and sitting on that experience I will firmly discourage anyone from trying that!) my relatively frugal self made the plunge and finally invested in a proper “evaporator” pan. My hope is to make enough for my family’s usage and then maybe, just maybe, be able to offer a little of this sweetness to our incredibly supportive CSA shareholders. It may not happen this year, but by golly I’m gonna try! And I have some wonderful little helpers who are very eager maple syrup connoisseurs. As the sap warms over the fire and the mapley-sweetness begins to increase, the children arrive with tea cups in hand and beg for a little “cup of tree”. (My family’s term of endearment for the amazing life blood of the sugar maple.) An incredible treat, really. Even the clear fresh sap straight from the tree has a wonderfully subtle maple flavor, but when it’s warmed over the fire just a bit and it’s cold and snowing outside and you’re standing around a raging fire and the air is filled with the mingling smells of wood smoke and maple… well, that’s just bliss. In the afternoon, our dear friends and farm neighbors, Jesse and Hannah, strolled down the hill to see how we were getting along. They joined us for that infamous cup of tree and we had a nice visit around the fire. They, too, have tapped a few trees on their own homestead and are doing all sorts of fun things with the sap. (Check out their post about this day here.)
To be sure, making your own maple syrup is an arduous task. There’s the cutting and collecting of all that wood. There’s the hauling and handling of all that sap. There’s the fire that needs stoking every 10 minutes or so for 12 to 15 hours straight. But a human being’s desire for sweetness is a strong one. And I’m more than happy to put in the work to secure my own sweetness from my own source if it better allows me to keep the industry standard sweetener (high fructose corn syrup) out of my house.