Maple Syrup Making - (for the Hobbyist who Doesn't know Much).

Behold, our Liquid Gold!
Happiness in a glass jar, Baby.
Finished product:  20 ounces from 5 gallons of sap.
This just screams: "Saturday morning pancakes!"
Tip me over and drink me up.  Oh man.  I seriously have to refrain.
But even better than the's a promise that Spring is coming!
It's just a whisper...with warming days and freezing nights still...but it's coming!

Maple syrup making is the first of Spring traditions.
And maple syrup making cannot take place in Winter, so I know that it's true.
Spring is FINALLY upon us.

We almost didn't tap this year.
New place.  Only a couple of trees.  Life.  You know...
But my boys noticed the trees, and my hubby was totally up for we just popped in a few spiles and figured we'd let come what may.  And surprisingly, these few little trees are yielding a decent amount of sap!
We boil it almost entirely down outside...otherwise my kitchen would be a sticky mess.
We "finish" it inside when there's only a couple of inches in the pan.
I picked up the coolest book at our local transfer station back when we lived in Hampden.  We called that place "The Hampden Walmart" - because we got the best stuff there.  I'm talking L.L. Bean backpacks to wear my babies in, bikes for the boys, clothes, games, tools - it was like going to a free yardsale every weekend.  We'd drop off all of our trash, and bring home a whole whack more.  Garbage in, garbage out - you know the drill.
Anyway, I found the coolest book called Back to Basics, and it's all about learning traditional American skills like: pickling and preserving, weaving and spinning, woodworking, metalworking, beekeeping, natural dyes, soap making, candle making, fishing, creating - all sorts of super cool stuff that the Hippie in my heart loves to read about and pretend that I can do.
My Dad and brothers tapped trees all throughout my growing up years, but I never really paid attention or got involved - other than sneaking out with a tea cup and drinking the sap every hour or so and loving how the watery liquid slowly turned darker and richer the further down it boiled and the longer it stayed on the heat.

A few years ago, we were driving home from a Family Day Trip somewhere, and we passed a house where the yard was literally lined with sap buckets all the way up their driveway.  I turned to Kev and declared:  "I want to tap trees!  Let's do it!"  In which he promptly replied:  "Okay, Babe." because he's super cool like that.

And that very day, we stopped at our local hardware store; we picked up a handful of spiles, some tubing, and some brand new five gallon buckets, and we had ourselves a little Family learning project.  I called up my sweet neighbor Lew who always got a kick out of our impulsive ideas.  He came over and gave us some pointers such as the direction in which to tap the spiles into the trees, how high up we should place them, which trees exactly were the maples (ahem...we were wrong on a couple of them) and we we were off.
Finishing it off inside.
This is seriously one of the easiest and neatest projects to do with your kids.  It's really kind of a miracle eating the finished product over pancakes knowing that it was watery liquid dripping from a tree just a few days before.  How amazing is that?

Man, God is cool...

If you have a couple of trees, a huge pot, some propane, and a thermometer that reaches around 220 degrees, you're golden.  This family has no awesome equipment, and certainly no sugar shack.  We have a grill with a huge propane tank.  Bam.  Cheap entertainment.  Delicious results.

Once we have close to five gallons, we start to boil it down.
Once it gets to about a third it's original amount, we strain it through a cheesecloth into a soup pan and keep on boiling.  So says the book:  Once it hits seven degrees above the boiling point of water (water boils at 212 degrees, so 219 roughly), the syrup is ready.  You can tell when it's almost ready, because it will suddenly start to really foam and froth, and it will boil right up over the pan if you're not paying close  attention.  That's always fun.

Want to know what else is fun to clean?  This:
 An entire bottle of garlic salt dumped on the table, the bench, and all over the blessed floor.
I went into the bedroom to change my clothes.
London decided to first, douse her brother's yogurt with said salt, and then discovered how to take said cap off of said bottle.  Mama praised Jesus that it was bedtime for said daughter.
Where was I?
Oh yes....
Paying attention so that the syrup doesn't boil over.
It's good to pay attention to things.  Especially one's almost two year old Crazy Cyclone of Cuteness..

So, yeah.
That's basically it.
Once it does the heavy, frothy boil - turn it down, check the temperature, and immediately pour it into glass jars that have been sitting in boiling water.  I strain it through a cheesecloth one last time directly into the jars. Screw on hot, brand new lids and the jars will seal themselves.  No need to hot water bath or pressure can them.  Some people still do, just to be safe.  I do not, and I am still alive to tell the story.

Option number two would be to strain it into any old container that you wish, pop it into your fridge, and make some rockin' pancakes for breakfast the next day - promptly devouring the syrup in all of its delicousness...but that's okay because you still have two more five gallon buckets to cook down.

I chose option number two.
Tomorrow morning is going to be amazing...

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