Saturday, January 22, 2011
Here in Tennessee we have to tap our maple trees in January in order for any chance of collecting maple syrup. Up North, tapping won't begin for another month but this week the weather is perfect for us. At night it will be in the teens and during the day it will be above freezing. We were hoping to tap a week ago but our sugaring supplies were on back order so hopefully it's not too late. Nowadays maple supply companies sell disposable sap bags for collecting syrup, but I've really been trying to cut back on how much plastic we use so we went for the more expensive galvanized 16qt buckets for collecting - plus I like the look much better then plastic bags hanging everywhere. The buckets aren't cheap though so we decided to tap just a few this year to see what happens.
As it turns out it seems like maple sugaring can be really easy or really complicated. I didn't know much about the process until moving here and doing some research. However, I did grow up going to the Maple Syrup Festival at Camp Lazarus in Delaware, Ohio when I was little and was always fascinated by the maple syrup demonstration at the Ohio State Fair each summer. For now, we are opting for the really easy (or at least the easiest) form of maple sugaring. I simply drilled a hole (about 2 inches in) on the sides of our sugar maple trees using a 7/16" drill bit. This left a nice wide slightly angled hole to hammer our spouts into. We bought Grimm spouts that have a hook on them to hold the buckets. After hammering the spouts in, I hung the bucket and attached the lid. Now we wait. If it works, we should start to see sap flow and eventually have enough to boil down into 100% pure maple syrup. More complicated versions of collecting maple syrup involve miles of plastic tubing, vacuums that suck it out of trees, giant underground holding tanks and impressive steam rooms. We don't have that many sugar maple trees so for now I think we'll stick to the simple way.
Collecting maple sap and making maple sugar goes along with my goal this year of making more and buying less. We actually go through a decent amount of maple syrup in our house and we always buy 100% maple syrup - not the stuff that's made from corn syrup with added coloring! We love cast iron and purchased an antique Griswold cast iron waffle maker last year. Homemade waffles on the cast iron waffle maker have become a household favorite and they are always better with maple syrup. I also like to put maple syrup in my yogurt and oatmeal. I'm looking forward to having our own maple syrup in the fridge this coming year. Lets hope it all goes well!