Thursday, March 23, 2023

Maple Flow 2023

 Spring has been doing its normal awkward dance showing glimpses of 50 degree stretches that are then tamped down quickly by incoming Noreasters dumping feet of heavy wet snowpack. 

The local deer herd has been bedding down all winter huddled around some fallen pines just a hundred yards from our home and the warmer weather has seen them more active and hungry as we watch them foraging around the homestead most evenings just about dinner time! Spring storms weigh down the hemlock boughs and seem to be a delicacy for them along with any freshly fallen trees that allows them access to those clusters of moss and lichen making them now easy targets for snacking! 

Along with the storms we have had some nice temperature swings that have made our maple buckets heavier than ever! One week we collected close to 70 gallons of sap, luckily the snow banks made for easy storage and after getting an extra early start on Saturday morning we had a nice family day spent doing art, chopping wood, eating smores and building fairy houses. 

Hazel noticed how black my hands were when she came out to soak in the maple sweetened air and inquired why my hands were so black... this question was a catalyst for a discussion of how charcoal is made and that turned into a drawing session with charcoal fresh from the firepit. Hazel was pretty impressed with her new found knowledge!

As the fire roared and the evaporated maple steam filled the air we got to work felling some deadwood from our forest along with bucking up the fresh blowdowns from these past few storms. The dead dried trees burn hot and work the best for making quick work of the gallons and gallons of sap to be boiled. This was an epic day as we kept that fire blazing from 6am till around 10pm when it finally condensed down to a three gallon stock pot that rest overnight in the fridge.

Cassi showed some interest in learning to buck up a few blow downs with the chainsaw and Hazel took a front row seat to watch Mom use that "scary saw". We try to teach her to respect tools but not to be afraid of them and watching Mom make quick work of that tree was a confidence builder for us all and I am always grateful when I get help stacking up the burn pile!

While Cassi took control of the chainsaw I diverted my focus on splitting some of the chunkers!

I had recently upped my axe game when I came across this beautifully restored vintage piece of history from Brant&Cochran. I stopped in there after work this past week and ended up getting a impromptu tour of their shop. I have one of their axes on order already so when the time comes to pick that one up maybe Ill bring my camera along and share a bit about this hidden little gem in a future post!

There is something about swinging an axe on a crisp overcast morning with maple sweetened smoke wafting through the air that will forever make me grateful for life.

As always I cold crash the final few gallons of sap in the fridge overnight and strain the liquid through cheesecloth... from there I bring the temp up to 225* and then filter through some wool flannel to get any cloudy haze out of the syrup.  After that its all about dialing in the sugar content using a hydrometer to measure the density which translates into the brix content of the syrup. It sounds more complicated than it is, really its just like getting the hydrometer to float between the right target so you know when its ready to bottle for storage!  

Once its at its target we funnel it into some clear wine bottles and cork finish them.
We have been making quite a bit this season so we also chose to make a few 375ml samplers for gifting and trading and those bottles just take a standard bottlecap so Hazel had fun learning about how those tools work. 

We get alot of inquiries about if we sell our syrup. Simple answer is no... for the amount of time and effort we put into the process it wouldn't be affordable and the last thing I want to do is sell our syrup and end up having to buy someone elses later in the year if we ran out! The joy of enjoying the sweet nectar from our surrounding woods is what homesteading is all about. From pancakes, to cocktails to summer lemonade, we use our syrup for as a sweetener for baking among other things so we never seem to ever have too much on hand! 

Speaking of which... it was time for Hazel and Dads favorite breakfast!

And finally it wouldn’t be right to not give a nod to our sweet kitty, aptly named Maple! 

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