Monday, February 20, 2017

Hoping for a sappy spring

My boys tapping trees four years ago--they were so little then
If you've been around for a while, you know that a few years ago, we tapped our box elder trees for sap, which we turned into syrup.  We collected a lot of sap, much more than we were expecting, and ended up with a lot more syrup than we were expecting.  And that was an amazing and wonderful thing.  Unfortunately, my boys like fake maple syrup--you know, the stuff that's made with corn syrup and maple flavoring--and I don't eat syrup.  I ended up dumping quite a bit of it out, needing the jars, and not knowing what else to do with the syrup.

So beautiful.
Our first finished pint of syrup from four years ago
In spite of that, I'm collecting sap again this year.  In the past several months, there have been too many recipes that I've wanted to make, but have had to reject because real maple syrup was included in the ingredients.  So I'm making some this spring.

My goal this year is about two quarts of syrup, and once I hit that goal, I am stopping (you all have my permission to take my milk jugs and ice cream pails sap collection vessels away if I keep trying to collect and boil sap after that).  From past experience, I'm estimating I'll need 20-30 gallons of sap to make two quarts of syrup.

As you know (if you've read my sappy posts), in order for the sap to flow, the temperature needs to be above freezing during the day and below freezing at night (I've noticed that it doesn't actually have to get below freezing at night, but below-freezing-at-night definitely helps prolong the sap run).
A mid-January forecast
We had a run of ideal sap collecting temperatures in mid-January, and I thought about collecting then, but January is crazy early for sap collecting.  Last time, we started near the end of March!  At the same time, I was nervous about missing the window, so when the forecast in mid-February showed about 12 straight days of warmer temps during the day and below freezing temps at night, I decided to just go for it.  If I got something, great; if I didn't, oh well, but at least I tried.

And so last Saturday, the boys, along with a guest, and I headed out to tap four trees.

And we got something!  A week later (aka two days ago), I had cooked about 3.75 gallons of sap down to about 1.5 cups of almost-syrup.

Almost-syrup
Then I had to take a break to let the trees catch up with us (the trees don't seem too sure that it's time for sap to run, so our yields have been lower than expected), and we're probably going to have to pause while some cooler weather rolls in (I saw some estimates of up to 20 inches of snow, which makes me happy), but the sap will start running again when the temps go back up.  In the meantime, we are well on our way to syrup success a second time.

I'll keep you posted.

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