The previous owners were thoughtful enough to leave us some sap buckets and spiles. My goal was to make 1 gallon of maple syrup this first season. The girls and I had tried this as a homeschooling project years ago but we got distracted during the boil down phase and decided to pour our thin, sweet sap over ice cream instead of waiting. This year would be different!
Ron and I marked the maple trees with orange tape in October so that we would be sure we had the right species in February. Then we carefully hung our buckets and were rewarded with gallons and gallons of sap. We dutifully gathered the sap storing it until we had the 40 gallons needed to make one gallon of syrup.
A byproduct of all this gathering was when the sap froze against the edge of the metal buckets forming these sap rings. I’ve been told that the frozen chunks were mostly water and contained very little sap, so I used them for wintry decorations.
I was anxious to get started boiling and began on a Sunday afternoon in February. Feeding the outdoor fire all day, scooping off foam from the evaporators was a lot of work. Even though Ron came out every couple of hours to check my wood supply, it got lonely out there by myself. And when I had boiled for eight hours and reduced the sap as much as I could outdoors, I moved inside and continued boiling on the kitchen stove for three more hours.
In the end, I produced 1 quart of syrup which was a bit disappointing. It was a lot of work for such a small amount of syrup.
During the process I frequented an online maple syrup forum to research the different processes that serious sugarers use and found a cooperative right here in my town called Tucker Mountain Maple. We stopped by to visit their sugar shack and discuss the details of the co-op. Next year, I’m hoping for a more social sugaring season.