Monday, March 8, 2010
There is a fan blowing, a window cracked and the hood running over the gas range, outside the temperature is freezing. Even with all this, to step into the kitchen and dining room is to step into a tropical climate. Steam billows up off of six large pans, that tick and hum with heat absorbed from the Home Comfort cook stove. The sweet smell fills every room in the house but the kitchen air could make a person cough with a deep breath in. There is an old saying that sugar makers like to say. When they know you are making sugar inside.
“Do you have wall paper? …You won’t.” Then they chuckle. But that was before electricity and now the fan and hood keep enough moisture moving out of the house that the old faded wall paper is still hanging. I am looking at the old wall paper and thinking maybe to have it slip off the wall would be a most excellent idea! Then again that would make more work at a time when more work could do us in. The last run has been very good with nights freezing and days in the low 40’s. We have been boiling sap for at least 18 hours a day. Then the stove is stoked heavy and drafts shut down to allow the sap to continue cooking into the night. By day cutting wood for the stove and gathering sap. I finish off a couple of cups by 11:00 then put more sap on the stove to replace it. Around 30 gallons of sap is cooked off in a day, if the wood is good and dry. I dream of a big stainless cross over pan and an arch to put it on out in the yard. 3x5 that will cook off 25 gallons an hour with sap dripping in on one side and syrup coming out the other end. Maybe next year! And a sugar shack? Yeah, a sugar shack! With a chair to snooze in beside the warm arch and an extra chair for visitors….Oh sigh! Maybe someday! But for now slow and steady to make the liquid gold.
The season has just begun in Highland County. It should be just ending. The weather had finally broken from snow and cold to sun and warmer temperatures. The folks there are rushing to tap and boil to get enough syrup for the Maple Festival next week. Rexrode is said to have made only 50 of the 300 gallons they average every year. The temps have been just to cold that the sugar water in the trees is not melting and surging through from root tip to twigs. The weather is suddenly turning warm for us on the other side of the mountain now, so the run ends as abruptly as it started. We hope it will get cold again, then that the trees will not bud out. If they do “bud out” the season is over. If they do the maple syrup becomes a precious commodity and the price soars so high it is questionable if people will buy real maple syrup or just buy the imitation syrup. I am told by sugar makers that know a lot more then I, that the supermarket brands, that are already expensive are not pure maple syrup but stretched with beet sugar and such. That is why the real producers use the labels of “100% Real Maple Syrup” and that maple syrup by law is to weigh 11 lbs. per gallon to insure the quality.
I will boil off this run today and hope and wait for the return of slightly colder weather. For now working on gallon number six. Hoping for 15 to 20 for the season. Hoping for a sugar shack… a big pan… a huge pile of dry wood… a big chair to snooze in….Now that’s real syrup making...