Saturday, March 28, 2015

Maple Tapping Time

the girls getting the water jugs we collected ready
We have had such a long winter. I was honestly enjoying the storm after storm we were getting until last month, when there was just no where to put it anymore and sickness came in to the house, my poor chickens have had a rough winter too, all cooped up in their coop. I dislike taking care of  farm animals in the winter. This time of the winter, even though its considered spring in so many other parts of the country is one of my favorite parts of the season change. The time for tapping the Maples has come. The nights are still freezing, but the days are warming up to even 40 degrees sometimes (t-shirt weather). The freezing and thawing creates a pressure in the trees, it causes the sap to run up, telling to the trees its time to wake up!
Tapping has become one of my favorite rituals of spring. It occurs at the most perfect time. The weather is changing and we know we want to get outside and start gardening or cleaning up the yard but especially this year there is still too much snow to do anything. But getting out in the fresh air to walk and lug jugs of sap for boiling is the perfect springtime exercise. It has helped me get over the last blahs of winter year after year. It is the perfect activity to welcome the changing season and say fairwell to ice, snow, woodstoves and coats.
climbing the big snowbanks to get to a maple cluster off our driveway
Tapping the trees is simple and quick depending on the spiles used; use a 5/16 - 7/16 in drill bit and drill a 2 - 2 1/2 in hole into the tree at a slightly upward angle. Its best to have your drilled holes on the south facing side of the tree. Its always fun drilling those first holes under the right conditions sap with immediately begin dripping out. The spiles can be purchased online or at a local hardware store. There are different kinds, we have some old fashioned metal and some plastic, we tapped 28 trees this year. It has come later than most years-- almost a month later.

gently pounding in the spiles its important not to pound them in too much as to split the wood.
We like to use water jugs attached with wire to collect the sap.

Every day the temp goes above freezing we go out and check on our taps. Some trees seem to fill up faster than others. We pour the smaller jugs into a larger 5 gallon water jug. The sap can be stored outside for several days until you have saved up enough to boil.
The beauty is thats its not necessary to tap so many, with between 3-8 trees you can get enough sap to make get a few pints and what a learning experience it is for homeschooling. The kids have more than ever taken an active role this year in the collecting.
He came out to help in this spiffy outfit; shorts and his sisters purple gloves.

We usually boil when we have about 5 gallons. We still have our wood stove heating most days, so I just keep a big pot of it on the stove and keep adding the sap as it boils down, straining it into the pot. Once it has evaporated enough I then finish it off on our kitchen stove. This does create quite a bit of moisture but we are not big producers so we are not worried about it. There are many ways to boil it off, outside in side, fire pit, etc. The syrup is finished when it reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point. It needs one more straining before being placed in sterilized jars. What a treat it is!

Our first finished syrup of the year, from the first day of collecting. So delicious!
Now we wait for all of this snow to melt! Here is an interesting link to a study done at the University of Rhode Island on the benifits of pure maple syrup:

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