Thursday, April 4, 2013

All sugared-out

Mother Nature has spoken and declared the end of our first maple sugaring season.

There are signs of spring everywhere, all the snow has gone, the ice has melted on the lake, our bulbs are starting to poke through and the trees are starting to look fuzzy. There's not been much sap running recently because we've had a bit of a cold snap, but yesterday I collected a fairly decent amount and boiled it down on the stove inside. It didn't smell quite right as it was boiling and when we got down to syrup it definitely tasted weird.

We have two smaller trees with one tap each and one big tree with two. The two small ones have been producing the majority of the sap recently so I thought it could have been the sap from the big tree that was causing the funny taste. This morning I boiled down a small amount of sap from the two small trees but had the same issue. It's still sweet but there's no distinctive maple flavour and a there's a funny taste that's hard to describe.

From what I've read I think my syrup is tasting "buddy" meaning the trees are starting to bud and causing changes to the sap. I don't want to waste loads of gas boiling down sap that doesn't taste good so I've decided to call it day for this year, even though there's a lot of sap running today. It's hard to see the buds on the trees because they are so high up, I even got the binoculars out and couldn't really tell what was going on up there!

Apparently there are ways of getting rid of the bad taste, such as filtering with carbon, but then you can't call it "pure maple syrup" because it's been adulterated. I've only got about 300ml of yucky tasting stuff so I think I'm just going to bin it.

I don't think we got a bad haul for only four spiles, and look what I've spotted, somehow we missed this big guy when we were tapping, but I reckon he could take two taps so next year I might up our production by 50%! 

Once the leaves come in I'm going to try and identify the maple species we have because I don't actually know whether they are sugar maples or not.

Here's the full collection of syrup minus two small batches of maple candy and two pints worth of sap that we gave to friends to boil down themselves. Most of what we produced was fairly light in colour, Vermont Fancy grade, but we did get one batch that was slightly darker. The light stuff is very good for making maple candy and maple cream which can be used as a frosting on cookies and cakes. I was hoping for more of the darker, stronger tasting, stuff but there's no controlling what you get. It could be due to the weather we've had or it could be affected by our location, we get quite a lot of cold Northerly winds coming up off the lake.

The cloudiness in some jars is due to something called niter which is the minerals from the sap which precipitate out as the syrup cools. It's harmless and can be removed by re-filtering the syrup, some of the jars have some settled out at the bottom. Not quite sure why I got one batch that hasn't gone cloudy, I filtered them all the same way! I hot-filled all the syrup into very clean jars so hopefully it should store okay in the pantry, but if we do get any mould apparently it's okay to scrape that off and re-heat the syrup and bottle it again.

Overall it's been a really fun project, but part of me is glad that we're done.
I've taken the taps out and the holes should heal over without being plugged. Time to clean up all the equipment, put it away for next year and get ready for some warmer weather!

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