Steam filled the air, swirling and wafting away as it plumed upwards from the wide stainless pan in our grandfather’s driveway. Sap dripped steadily into the top of the pan, slowly filling it. …
Steam filled the air, swirling and wafting away as it plumed upwards from the wide stainless pan in our grandfather’s driveway. Sap dripped steadily into the top of the pan, slowly filling it. It reduced over time, turning clear sweet water into thicker darker syrup.
As much as I love maple syrup, I’ve never had the privilege of helping to make it. I’ve always been enamored with the tools of the trade and the sheer wonder of drawing such a valuable kitchen staple out of the trees we walk past every day.
The process has always appeared to be an enjoyable, not-tedious task from collecting the sap to rendering it into something of culinary worth.
This year, after being gifted a small two-foot-by-three-foot evaporator, my wife and I called upon the maple-making expertise of her father and grandfather and attempted to make ourselves a supply of the tasty treacle.
Fortunately for us, her grandfather, who had been tapping the family maples ever since his father had been the syrupy sensei, had just run out of his current supply, which had not needed to be replenished for the last five years. He had made roughly as many gallons the last time and it had lasted him that long.
Now with reinvigorated demand, he agreed to help us collect and cook a fresh supply, to be divided among the family.
For those of you who may have been curious about whether this would be making an appearance at our family’s farmstand this summer, I regret to inform you that this year has been all about the education. However, it is with cautious optimism that I will share my hopes for adding this to our future provisions as a farm product.
Aspirations aside, it is nice to occasionally go back to the basics and learn an old-timey skill like making syrup. It’s made more enjoyable by knowing that it is without the pressure of immediate commerce and is simply for the love of living off of the land. It’s easy to think about folks a hundred years ago or more as having had to live simply and do without so many modern conveniences, but when you realize things as simple as this native sugar were abundant for them to harvest, it’s easier to imagine a feeling of luxuriousness even without the use of fancy evaporating equipment.
On another note, it’s a reminder to us that commodities we enjoy are not as prevalent in other parts of the country. This area that we live in may not be Vermont or even Canada when it comes to maple production, but it is well balanced with a far more temperate climate than either of those regions typically get to enjoy.
As I rode back and forth on the tongue of the tractor collecting sap from our collection barrels by way of the power take-off pump, I breathed in the first warm scents of the coming spring season that warmed out hardwoods and allowed the sap to run plentifully into our taps.
After arriving back at our stove, I enjoyed the first few swings of my splitting maul as I cracked down on chunks of firewood to feed the engine that would bring my family sweet breakfast decadence. Even days later, as I continued working at my nine-to-five cutting meat, we had the finishing pot cooking in the kitchen in the next room, finalizing the reduction to its ultimate state. I must have been in there with my face hovering over the pot as often as I stopped to take a drink of coffee, which for me is a lot. By the time I arrived home at night, my wife informed me that my beard smelled of maple, and I could only assume that was a desirable attribute.
The way out here, we are happy to work for our special treats; after all, it almost makes them more special that way. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, now is a pretty good time to go make some waffles. Don’t hog that syrup.
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