Making Maple Syrup


| 4/1/2011 11:13:01 AM


Tags: maple, syrup, sap, Lisa Richards,
pancakes

I didn’t grow up with real maple syrup. I lived in Far West Texas (El Paso), and was pretty poor. My step-father used to dole out toppings for pancakes in those little plastic medicine cups. We had a choice of either powdered sugar or Aunt Jemima. (I looked at one of those ingredients lists the other day. Ack! That’s not food, it’s “food”!)

I confess that when I have pancakes for breakfast now, I’m a little heavy handed with the powdered sugar sprinkles … mmm, with melted butter. But I always ALSO have plenty of real maple syrup, too. Yum! I'm spoiled! 

I love to cook with maple syrup. I put it into my bread recipe. I like it in savory dishes, too, especially when combined with soy sauce and black trumpet mushrooms. I always make my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes by dicing them up small, roasting them and some pecans, and then drizzled with maple syrup.

Sweet Potatoes with maple and pecans 

Making maple syrup is something really special. We have quite a few maple trees on our property, and are slowly trying to improve our sugar bush. Every year, we tap more and more of them, using tubing and ever larger containers. We are tapping enough this year to make the farm show at least a small profit in a season with few other income opportunities. It’s too early to plant even seeds indoors, and too muddy in the woods to log.

We have a hobby level evaporator, 4 feet long by 2 feet wide, just called a “2 x 4.” We use all of the slab that is left over from running our sawmill as well as the slash, the tops and branches from harvested trees that would otherwise be left in the woods to rot. The rule of thumb is a cord of wood for 25 gallons of syrup. Fossil fuel has been too expensive to use since the oil embargo in 1973, and besides it’s just wrong to burn oil in the middle of the woods. There’s never a problem getting rid of scrap wood in New England.

nebraska dave
4/3/2011 9:32:52 AM

Lisa, we have maples here but I don't think they are sugar maples. I'm not a tree guy but I believe they're called hard maple trees. Is that the same as a sugar maple? Certainly we wouldn't have enough to get 40 gallons of sap that's for sure. Nebraska is not know for it's trees. It's pretty much all treeless farm ground. So boil away because I'll have to count on you up in the northeast for my real maple syrup. Have a great day in the boiler room.


lisa richards
4/2/2011 1:39:42 PM

Supposedly Native Americans were doing it when the Pilgrims arrived and taught them how to do it. They were using wood taps and pails. Once we get the evaporator going, we have to mind it pretty carefully when it's running, but we will stoke it up with sap and wood and let it go out overnight, and then start it up the next day. But we only do that once, because it gets darker every time it cools off and reheats up, so we have lots of long days during sap season. Do you have sugar maple trees where you live? Supposedly if they grow where you are, you can tap them.


lisa richards
4/2/2011 1:39:24 PM

Supposedly Native Americans were doing it when the Pilgrims arrived and taught them how to do it. They were using wood taps and pails. Once we get the evaporator going, we have to mind it pretty carefully when it's running, but we will stoke it up with sap and wood and let it go out overnight, and then start it up the next day. But we only do that once, because it gets darker every time it cools off and reheats up, so we have lots of long days during sap season. Do you have sugar maple trees where you live? Supposedly if they grow where you are, you can tap them.


nebraska dave
4/2/2011 9:53:41 AM

Lisa, I'm always fascinated by the different processes for producing food. Who thought of taking that sap from trees and boiling it down into syrup for the first time? I'm glad they did. I can understand now why the real stuff in the store is so expensive. How long does it take to boil 40 gallons down into one gallon of syrup? It seems like it would take quite awhile. Do you boil day and night until the process is complete? It doesn't look like it would be something that could be left on it's own for very long. This is not something that would be feasible at home. It would be way too costly. I've not heard of anyone in Nebraska making syrup. I think it's more of the northeastern thing. It looks like it would be quite an intense part of the year's harvest. Have a great maple syrup making day.





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