The Great Bigleaf Maple Syruping Experiment continues.

February 3, 2013 · 11 comments

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By myself, I could probably make it to the pond and back in maybe 20 minutes if I really hurried, but since Henry left for California, the kids and I have being collecting sap together each morning. With my sap-collecting buddies, the same trip takes at least hour. There are always banana slugs to examine, rock piles to excavate, sticks to throw for the dog, and treasure to collect. (Charlotte bends over, picks up a little piece of bone, and squeals, “Levi, I found a whale tooth!”) It’s okay, though. We have no reason to hurry.

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Before I go on, I have to say a bit huge “thank you” to everyone who left such insightful, informative, and heartwarming comments on my last maple post. I could probably google around for syruping tips, but it’s a whole lot more fun to read about your own experiences and fond childhood memories. Sometimes I sort of forget that people are actually out there in the world reading (REALLY reading, not just looking at the photos like my mom) this blog. Your comments are definitely affirming and motivating for me (even if I don’t always respond to each one individually).

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Since the first days of sap-filled bounty, the flow has tapered off significantly. This morning we collected about a gallon from three trees after 24 hours since the last harvest. I’m trying to decide if this means…

a) We started right at peak flow or perhaps even after peak flow, and now sap production will taper down to nothing.

b) Sap flow has tapered because it’s been warmish, but it will pick up again when it gets cold.

c) The first rush was a fluke, and Oregon just isn’t very good for maple syrup after all.

Whatever the answer is, I am not disappointed or discouraged. I’m just curious and thankful because after all, this is only an experiment and no matter what the result, I’ve already learned a ton and had an interesting experience.

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I’ve been collecting sap every day in this 5-gallon BPA-free jug. It works great. Because I’m so used to being extra conscientious about hygiene and cleanliness when dairying and cheesemaking, I’ve been washing out my jug between sap gathering expeditions. So far, though, I haven’t brought the buckets or spiles in to wash them since we started this experiment six days ago. I’m hoping that because I’m boiling everything eventually, I’m okay sanitation-wise.

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The most exciting thing to report is that we have syrup! Not a whole lot, but I think after I filter this most recent pot, we’ll be up to almost a quart. And let me tell you, this stuff is GOOD. Like REALLY good. There’s part of me that would love to do an official maple syrup tasting with East Coast vintages as well, but for now, I’m satisfied to drizzle a couple spoonfuls over plain yogurt and a sprinkling of shredded coconut for breakfast. It doesn’t get much better than that. I gave Henry’s dad (who fancies himself something of a maple syrup connoisseur) a taste this morning, and he rated it right up there with the best. We may not get much more out of this first run, but it’s totally been worth it. We will definitely be doing this next winter (though we’ll probably tap in mid-January and see what we get).

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby February 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

I read everything you write, but I understand your mom’s plight. You take such great pictures! What are you using?

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Camille February 4, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I just have a Nikon D3100 with 50 mm f1.8 and 40 mm f2.8 macro lenses.

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ga447 February 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Photo of the children in the tub is precious. I am so happy your hard work is paying off.

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Ariel Dedolph February 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi there, just wanted to add my 2 cents…We are in the Hudson Valley of NY and have been back-yard sugaring for 4 years now. We have a stone fire pit with a salvaged grill on top. We put in around 15 taps and have gotten between 4 and 10 gallons of syrup (depending on weather). We boil on the off-cuts of my husband’s carpentry business – he saves them up all year. We have found that boiling outside, then finishing inside, gives us the perfect combination of less steam in the house, and being able to watch those last few minutes to prevent boil-over. Boiling outside does add a smoky flavor that we like – but isn’t like bottled syrup. Our kids love it – and it gets us all outside after the winter shut-ins…Also, try making that oatmeal with the sap instead of water – killer. Happy syruping!

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Camille February 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Oh man, oatmeal with sap instead of water! This is genius.

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Maria February 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm

That is so cool! I’m afraid I have nothing more to add to the conversation, except that that is so cool!! I lived in Massachusetts one year and went on enough sugaring house tours to be vaguely aware of the process and the huge amount of sap that goes into making the final product. Kudos for giving it a shot and how neat that the product is turning out well!

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Sonya February 5, 2013 at 6:50 am

Yay! So excited for you. I have an endless supply of maple syrup thanks to my roommates family. We’re hoping to go out in March to help out with maple syrup season. If we end up going I want to photo document the process since it’s such a example of Americana.

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Rachel February 11, 2013 at 9:57 am

I think it’s a great idea that you are boiling down as you go, as you will avoid having the stored sap get too warm and go bad – plus it will be very interesting to compare the color and taste of each batch as the season progresses. One small bit of advice, which I learned the hard way, is to pay attention to the pot very closely as it nears its syrup point – it’s easy to get distracted and let the pot boil over, which creates an enormous mess. Where we live in New Hampshire, we don’t start sugaring until later this month and into March.

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Rachel February 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm
Camille February 18, 2013 at 11:20 am

Well, the cops already came out to check if we were growing pot in the greenhouse, so I think we’re in the clear. Thanks for the heads up.

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Taryn Kae Wilson @ Wooly Moss Roots March 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I’ve always wondered about making maple syrup in Oregon. How fun!

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