Monday, February 29, 2016

Harvest Monday - 29 February 2016

Hello from Eight Gate Farm!

As a sure sign of spring in these parts, we have concluded our 2016 maple syrup harvest. On February 15, at the start of a warming stretch, we set out our typical four taps, one each in the four big sugar maples by the barn. On Saturday the 27th we judged we had enough for our needs, and pulled the taps. For major producers, the season is actually just getting into high gear.

In that 12-day period there were two "runs" of sap. The first yielded about 10 gallons, which boiled down to roughly 1 1/2 quarts of Grade A Golden. Then we had a cold spell, which shuts down the flow. It resumed on the 23rd, This second run yielded another 10 gallons, which became roughly 1 1/4 quarts of Grade A Amber. Here you can see the results of the two runs, and the sharp difference in color. Naturally, the darker the syrup the more intense the flavor.

Left two, Golden, right two, Amber. Both Grade "A."

Here's a link to the new grading standards that most producing regions are now employing.

I've written about how we do this on a small scale here, here, and here.

The Kitchen Goddess did most of the work, of course, while I sat around in my bathrobe offering helpful criticisms. Naturally, I always thank the trees for their service:

Genuine Tree Hugger
So this was a good year. Not as good as last, when we got roughly 3 quarts in only 6 days of tapping. But we started a full month earlier this year, showing how quickly the warmer weather has arrived. 2014 was actually a bust, comparatively speaking, with only one quart produced. You never know.

The local high school has yet to set their taps in our "sugar bush" (quaint term for maple grove) down the hill, but they probably will start any day. Last year they gave us a quart in payment, which we have just now broken into, having used up our own production.

Needless to say, we love having our own syrup on pancakes and waffles made with our own cornmeal. Yes, there are some costs involved. Propane for the boiler cost $15 this year (the rest of the equipment we bought in past years). But it is so worth it. Driving around, I see more and more people clearly making their own on a small scale, which is heart-warming.

As I've said in the past, many people either prefer the "maple-flavored" corn syrup found in "Log Cabin" or "Aunt Jemima" brands, or have never tasted the pure stuff. But such heresy will get you ostracized here in New England.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave at Our Happy Acres for hosting Harvest Monday.

14 comments:

  1. GREAT tree hugging photo! I didn't realize that you were able to get that much sap from only 4 trees...I always thought you had to have a veritable forest to generate enough to be worthwhile. Sadly we only have one maple tree on our property and I'm fairly certain it's not a sugar maple.

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  2. Oh wow, home grown maple syrup! Yum! Love the tree hugger portrait.

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    1. Thanks Michelle. Don't you think the tree makes me look fat?

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  3. I too love your tree hugger photo. Give me the pure stuff, no substitute. I like the golden on my pancakes and the amber for cooking.

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    1. They used to sell the really really dark stuff as Grade B for cooking. Now it's all Grade A, just different shades. The golden really does taste lighter--still sweet, just not as "maplely."

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  4. We use nothing but the real maple syrup here. I like the darker colored myself. What a great harvest too!

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  5. How amazing to have your own maple syrup! I wish our maples produced syrup here. We usually go to Upstate NY in the summer and that's where I stock up on real maple syrup.

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    1. Thanks Julie. Crossing state lines with maple syrup--you sure that's legal? ;)

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  6. I grew up in Vancouver on Aunt Jemima and had never tried real maple syrup until I moved East. Maple syrup all around me now (Quebec being the world's largest producer from what I've read; and my old farm was in Lanark County - maple syrup capital of Ontario). Although New England area is obviously a huge producer as well!

    But never have done it myself. At a friend's sugar shack not long ago, we mixed gin with the slightly cooked down sap - quite a treat!

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    1. Gin and 'maple juice"--that is something new!

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  7. Nice to have maples. All I can make from the trees on my land is turpentine. We usually buy the amber grade syrup. It's cheaper and tastier and leaves plenty of the light grade for the flatlanders to drop their dollars on. Since you have plenty of syrup, maybe try making a Dog Team Tavern Maple Oatmeal Pie: bit.ly/217leIY . I had it at the original Dog Team Tavern in Vermont before it burned down. It's like a Yankee pecan pie.

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    1. Yes, sugar maples are my favorite tree--beautiful and useful. I joke that I hope the high schoolers that tap our trees can tell a maple from a pine. I will look up that Oatmeal Pie recipe--sounds delicious if a little strange!

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