The sap is flowing
March 15, 2009 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Up in Maple country The season is right for making maple syrup. Grades a,b,d; colors are factors. The international market is a factor. Visit lovely Cape Breton. posted by longsleeves (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I saw a guy boiling some in his driveway yesterday. (central VT)

Putting my order in today for some grade B. (not from the driveway guy)

(Never heard of D.)
posted by MtDewd at 3:40 AM on March 15, 2009

How glorious can a tree be, that is so beautiful, makes such wonderful shade, turns gorgeous colors in fall, and also makes the sap for maple syrup? And when felled, the lumber is as beautiful as the tree. Hug 'em if ya got 'em. If not, plant 'em!
posted by Goofyy at 3:54 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry, syrup grades are what they is and so on.
posted by longsleeves at 3:56 AM on March 15, 2009

Oh, and for your convenience, here's Goofyy's Guide to Pancakes.
posted by Goofyy at 3:56 AM on March 15, 2009

I found this article on South Korean villagers and their love of maple sap to be fascinating:

"For centuries, southern Korean villagers like Park have been tapping the gorosoe, or "tree good for the bones". Unlike North Americans who collect maple sap to boil down into syrup, Korean villagers and their growing number of customers prefer the sap itself, which they credit with a wide range of health benefits. In this they are not alone. Some people in Japan and northern China drink maple sap, and birch sap has its fans in Russia and other parts of northern Europe."
posted by Auden at 4:09 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:53 AM on March 15, 2009

i'm gonna wait til the midnite hour
that's when my syrup comes pouring down
i'm gonna wait til the midnite hour
when there's no one else around
gonna take you, syrup and pour ya
cause you know that i adore ya
in the midnite hour
oh yeah,
in the midnite hour
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:01 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The "Eat Local Southwest Michigan" reading group met in our house last Sunday, and one woman had just made her first batch of maple syrup. Her mother is a bee-keeper, and here's the point: making maple syrup is dead easy, if a bit time consuming (especially compared to keeping bees, anyway).

Until we moved recently, my wife tapped the silver maple trees in the yard each spring. I don't know about birch sap, but cold maple sap straight from the trees early in the season seems like drinking life itself.
posted by wfitzgerald at 5:06 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

my boarding high school was on a 1000 acres of land in vermont. they had lots of tapped trees, but us students kept taking the plastic tubing to make bongs.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:07 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

In February of 1997 I helped build a sugarhouse in Southern Vermont and then helped tap approximately 200 trees, run the lines and boil the sap. The amount of work that is involved with this operation is a major pain in the ass: tromping uphill through the snow with coils of tubing, small pieces of plastic that slip through your frozen fingers, etc.

When the sap starts to flow, you're aware of how crazy that equation of 40 gallons sap = 1 gallon syrup really is. Some of the greatest moments: Being inside the sugar house at full boil while a winter storm is raging outside. Our sugar house was old school fueled by wood, so you have this little island of steam and heat, you're working in a t-shirt sweating bullets and then step outside into a white storm. Occasionally, after a particularly long and delirious day, we'd strip down and roll around in the snow to cool off.

There's some skill involved in getting the Grade A sap (Digression: Yes, Grade B is better on pancakes, but Grade A actually has more depth and subtle flavors. Try some on vanilla ice cream.) You have to keep the sap moving and pay exact attention to the temperature and then pour it off quickly before it overheats.

After the giddiness of the short sugar season, the hangover kicks in. You now have to trudge back up that hill, remove the taps from each one of those trees, fix the lines, etc. Is it all worth it? Barely, but it's a hell of a lot of fun . . .
posted by jeremias at 5:20 AM on March 15, 2009 [7 favorites]

I love maple syrup season. I'm heading out in the bright sunshine today with the children to show them how the First Nations made "sweet water". It's times like these that make me pity the poor people in Southern California that only have one season.
posted by saucysault at 7:33 AM on March 15, 2009

You know those foods where you can't help but think "who was the first person who decided to try and eat this?" Concentrated tree sap is one of those foods. But I'm glad someone went around licking trees every time I have pancakes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:43 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

after reading jeremias, i need to tap some sap ASAP!
posted by liza at 8:03 AM on March 15, 2009

I have this memory of seeing a catalog advertising syrups made from different types of tree saps - birch maybe - not sure what else. Does other tree syrup exist? And any ideas where I can find some?
posted by serazin at 9:13 AM on March 15, 2009

Vermont Sweet Water Bottling Co. makes a maple seltzer and maple soda that are pretty tasty. Birch sap is drunk as a beverage. Personally, I'm more partial to birch beer, like Boylan's, for example. My husband has been known to drink straight maple syrup (but then he's a New England native.) I love the real thing but will stick to putting it on pancakes and French toast, myself. Maple syrup *is* good on vanilla ice cream, though, as jeremias says.
posted by gudrun at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2009

We've got about 5 buckets on our trees right now. We could do more, but it's too time consuming to boil it down when you have a full-time job. Last year was the first year we did it, and we burnt some up, and wasted a lot of propane. Not sure it was any cheaper than buying it from a neighbor. But it sure smells good when it's boiling. We only had one day of flow last week, and got a mason jar full of the sweet stuff. Today, all the taps are drip, drip dripping. I'm hoping that by the end of the season, we'll have at least a gallon of syrup.

I'm planning to make some lollipops this year. My husband wants to make maple porter. Last year he did some bread-making and used the unboiled sap in place of water.
posted by saffry at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2009

It's gonna cost you more this year.
posted by Xurando at 12:38 PM on March 15, 2009

I'm doing my first boil of the year today. My son and I collected about 150 gallons from 100 buckets yesterday and fired up our little evaporator this morning. We keep shoving logs in from the trees we cut in the spring, and adding more sap as it boils away. The steam has been billowing for about 8 hours, now, and the clear sap is starting to turn that incredible amber color. There is no project I've ever taken on that has been more satisfying or rewarding.
posted by Framer at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2009

I've been thinking about fermenting some.
posted by maurice at 3:48 PM on March 15, 2009

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