The few weeks when winter and spring are indistinguishable from each other is a sweet time of year. Cold nights and warmer days make the sap in maple trees flow. Earlier in March, we tapped maple trees near our house with visions of golden syrup dripping over whole-wheat pancakes.
Daley was in charge of the drill; Finley, the hammer. The kids enjoyed catching the first pure drips in their mouths.
Every day we checked the trees and were excited by the “super sappers” with their steady production. As we emptied the jugs into a larger storage container, the kids tested each tree for sweetness. We were intrigued that some trees were sweeter than others. Due to more sun? Better soil?
We designated a weekend day to boil down our 18 gallons (give or take what the kids drank).
We built a fire pit outdoors with cement bricks and old grill grates. Buffet pans allowed more surface area to evaporate the water faster.
“Faster” is relative though.
It still took 12 hours.
We made a party out of it by inviting friends and roasting hot dogs over the open fire for both lunch and dinner (to the kids’ delight). In the dozen hours, the weather went from snowing to raining to sunny. We had to do several wardrobe changes to keep dry.
Once the 18 gallons were reduced outdoors to a couple, we finished the last bit of boiling inside over the stove so we could watch it carefully. Last year, we accidently crystallized it, making maple candy. We’ve read that you should stop boiling at 7 degrees above the boiling point of water, which depends on your altitude. We’re not that scientific.
The 18 gallons produced ½ gallon of delicious syrup (the ratio is normally 40:1).
A Few Maple Sugaring Tips
Tip from Daley, the Tapmeister (8 years old): Save milk jugs. Ask friends for theirs.
Tip from Tim, the Boilmeister: Don’t underestimate how long it will take to boil down the sap.
Tip from Finley, the Tastemeister (4 years old): Don’t get too close to the fire. Don’t touch the fire. Don’t play around the fire.
Tip from Kristina, the Meister-meister: Google “How to Make Maple Syrup” to learn more about the steps. It’s not nearly as complicated as you might think and it’s worth the effort (especially if your family does most of the work!).
If tapping your own (or your neighbor’s) trees is not an option, we are fortunate in Duluth to have a maple syruping farm in the Lakewood area. The Rogotzke family sells their local maple syrup directly from their production area where you can see the fascinating process unfold.
Enjoy the wonders of spring!
Have you ever made maple syrup? Share your tips and tricks in the comment box below. Thanks!