New Yorkers are somewhat crazy by nature, but transplanted New Englanders are even crazier... which is why my loft smells like a sugar house long about now. We feel the need to keep all things New England with us, close at heart, and in doing so we tend to cart things all over the place in an attempt to bring the country to the city. When I was younger it was apples, blueberries and flowers by the bucketful from my parent's garden in Massachusetts. We carefully drove said flowers from Massachusetts to New York City, car fully loaded. Then it was vegetables from a farm stand on Long Island. It has at times been old glass and linens (more than is humanly possible!) from the country flea markets in the south of France. Now, it is furniture, vegetables, wild ramp, jam, great huge dogwood branches from upstate New York, and finally, in an effort to not miss the syruping season, it is sap... We tapped our trees in upstate New York before we went to Mexico. When we came back a week later, we drove up to check on the progress. The conditions have been fairly stellar this year. Before we left we ran lines from three Sugar Maples with two taps per tree into large galvanized water troughs. We sealed the top of the trough so no snow or rain could get in. After a week away we had about 30 gallons of sap. We began our well practiced ritual of carting and squirreling back to the city. We filled five 5 gallon recycled plastic water containers with the sap we had collected and brought it back to boil down in our loft. We were committed to doing it this way or we would have missed the season entirely, as we didn't have the time to spare to be upstate outside over a fire 24/7. So far it's been working marvelously, with the exception of the steamy windows. We started boiling down two mornings ago. We have been at it continuously. We started with 25 gallons and are down to about 12. It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, so if all goes according to plan by tomorrow this time we should have a 1/2 gallon of beautiful grade a maple syrup. You may wonder if all of this work really seems worth it when there are so many great syrup makers out there. For me, making syrup is a nostalgic thing. It is something we did every year when I was kid, sometimes the whole neighborhood got in on he action. Growing up in Massachusetts, we didn't use plastic lines like most people seem to do these days. Instead, we drove the same taps we had used year after year into our trees and hung much loved and much used galvanized buckets and their little hoods from tree to tree. We emptied the buckets before and after school. We prayed secretly for a snow day so we could be there for the final boil down when we would pour the hot syrup over the pristine snow to make long strands of gooey maple candy. We always had enough sypup to last the year, or nearly the year, if the hidden stockpile stayed well out of reach of little hands. I don't hope to make that much at all, but I do hope to create a somewhat nostalgic moment in my own kids lives. I hope wherever they end up, city or country, they become squirrelers too.
Day three of the boiling down...
We boiled down at a roiling boil for 12 hours the first day and twelve hours the second day. We turned it off at night. We are now down to the final concentrated pot of sap. The clear liquid has turned a beautiful amber. I am imagining that by this afternoon it will be done. I have to keep a close eye on it now so it doesn't burn or get too thick.
Voila... it is done. I had to strain it through four layers of cheesecloth to get rid of any bits of twigs or sediment.
The syrup tastes AMAZING! A friend told me about a book she read to her daughter called Maple Syrup Season. The book is for children, but goes into great detail about the taste of syrup.The first run often tastes slightly floral and is more delicate than the second or third run which gets progressively darker by nature (hence the syrup grading system) and more intensely maple in flavor.
We are now on round three of boiling down. Hopefully by the end we will have two solid gallons of maple syrup!