Syruping...I'm pretty sure that's not really a word. But that's what we've been doing. And we've had a grand time of it. Although nearly each and every step has been a learning process.
I'm not sure that this is exactly how syrup is supposed to be made, but this is how we did it, and I'm quite pleased with the results.
First, get the sap out of the tree. No problem. Drill, spile, bucket.
This year we got 6 gallons of sap. (Actually, we got about 9 gallons, but it turns out that sap needs to be kept cold...or it turns into something funky that does not smell good at all. Like I said...a learning process.)
The sap starts out looking like this...
Crystal clear, with just the fainest sweet, woody taste.
After the sap is collected, we boiled it. And boiled it. And boiled it.
Then I got bored and played Angry Birds.
And then boiled it some more.
And did some laundry.
And boiled it some more.
Eventually, it starts look like syrup.
And then it needs to be boiled some more.
Supposedly, it's supposed to be boiled until it is 7 degrees above the temperature it started boiling at. Since it's mostly water, it should boil fairly close to 212 degrees, so a temperature of 219 should indicate that it's done. Well, our syrup started boiling at 202 degrees. I don't understand. I think our thermometer needs to be calibrated. If such a thing can be done.
Finally, it starts looking like syrup. At which point, it was strained into a jar.
I had three reactions when we were finally done. We actually made syrup! It's beautiful! And is that all it made?
We did get a nice surprise. At the bottom of the pan was a thin layer of very fine crystals - sugar sand. I poured this onto wax paper, let it dry, and then ground it up. And, voila, maple sugar.
100% natural, no artificial colorings or flavorings. Although I'm not deluding myself into thinking that makes it okay for my boys to eat this by the spoonful. Sugar is sugar - it's just that we made this ourselves. And it is just divine on hot oatmeal.
The entire time, I kept thinking how natural this was, now maple syrup was completely green...until I had to boil the bejeezus out of it. I think that any carbon bonus we got was offset by the amount of time this stuff sat on our stove.
But that's not going to stop me from making it next year. It's too much fun. And delicious. And seriously, how many kids can say they made maple syrup over Spring Break?