It’s that time again here on the southern range of the sugar maple trees. 🍁 🍁 🍁 We start early for sure because the rollercoaster of temperatures is quite extreme here in the Ohio River valley. I thought about waiting because of an intense cold snap ahead and you also never know when summer will hit in March so to speak.
This is my third year with it here at the lake in terms of full time suggarin, not just helping like years before. I have more of the right equipment and supplies in place so on day 1, 50 taps going in was quite easy. Glass jars, plastic lids, plastic tubing, and plastic 5-gallon jugs to transport the sap is our outdoor setup. I like glass what can I say. I try and avoid the sap water sitting in plastic for too long, so I have my system/equipment of choice.
I have the trees I want to tap fairly squared away after doing it these last couple of years and seeing which ones make sense in terms of access and grouping. It’s one thing to tap a tree on a steep hillside, it’s another to collect many times during the sap run season. And I phase some trees in and out in that respect and am trying a new zone this year and scaling back in another zone. That way I keep around 80 taps which seems to be a sweet spot for me to keep up with it and it be a good challenge. I may get up to about 90 this year, and who knows maybe I will pull the taps on the southside early and try the northside run for the first time this year where we have really dense sugarbush in some spots. For sure less accessible but as we scale up, a venture needed.
It is pretty amazing to see on a warm day in mid-January just how immediately the trees are dripping on the south facing hillsides that I tap on. On my north facing hillsides that I am constantly looking at but rarely walking on during the winter, I can’t imagine starting there for at least another month. This does show the amazing power of microclimate and season extension.
And in just 28 hours we had our glass 2.5-gallon jars filling and reminding to wash my evaporator pan and find my funnel, ha. Which I did, then we began to boil and several rounds of collecting from the different zones. 30 gallons of sap in day 1 of harvests with more taps put in on day 2 as well. All in all, this is a multi-day boil and should be around gallon and a quarter of syrup. I lose track after a while of how much sap is harvested. Time to rinse the hydrometer off, get the finishing pot ready to go, and some bottles ready. It looks like only a bit of our nice bottles will be sold this year as the price of glass is crazy, so more low-key sales this time!
And like that after hours and hours, days really, of boiling it becomes syrup. My busy life only lets me do it on electric, but it works! This time I finished in my regular kitchen, not outdoor kitchen and it was great as the wind was whipping with a snowstorm approaching. The syrup came out light and full of flavor. Like a true stuffy connoisseur, I will call it vanilla overtones with a tang of citrus in the back end. With temperatures in the 40’s for a couple days this week after a good cold snap, the trees should be gushing again! We got our 1.2 Gallons boiled away and a sugar resource secured for our homestead. Happy suggarin y’all!