It has been several years since we made maple syrup and the spot on our shelf where it sat waiting for pancake day has sat gathering dust for too long.
This year I was determined to get some sap boiled down and syrup into jars.
Unfortunately, my former set up (place pans on extremely inefficient woodstove to boil the whole day away- awesome. easy. free. no extra work. no extra wood.) would be impossible since we replaced the woodstove down cellar with one that is insulated and not hot on the surface (and so wouldn't boil a thing.) The only alternative for us this year was to boil the sap outside with slab wood.
We started out way in the woods (near the trees) and had a good boiling on a weekend when Matt could tend the fire. We ate a supper of baked sweet potatoes and slow cooked pork around the sweet smelling fire and hauled the hot syrup in the dark back to the house to be finished off.
After that, boiling had to be done during the week which meant- it was up to me! I moved a fire pit closer to home so I could boil and tend the fire while doing school and taking care of babies, etc. But if you've never boiled sap down with wood- you can't just leave the fire, you have to add wood every ten minutes or so to keep the heat up.
Along with every thing else I was doing- it was ex.haust.ing. The end of the day I was sore from bending over a gazillion times. I was muddy from slipping back and forth from porch to pit. And I smelled like the inside of a chimney.
I could have done another boil or two on a few sunny days but I was too tired/sick of smelling like fire, and with the crazy busyness of that particular week I sheepishly and guiltily made the decision to dump those buckets of sap and wait until the next week. I could make more then, right?!
Well, the sap dripped and the buckets filled but then the sky started to drip too- and you can't exactly evaporate the water from sap with the rain pouring back in as you boil.
And then it snowed.
All in all, I boiled a measly gallon of syrup.
Clearly the boiling outside thing has created many new challenges for me that I will have to overcome. This will help. And doing the month membership to the YMCA for swimming would be better timed in January, say, rather than smack dab in the middle of syrup season. And NO PARTIES to prepare for in March either! More sun and less rain/snow would be a welcome help as well.
Matt, of course, is thinking "Saphouse!"
I'm very thankful for that gallon of syrup and for the deliciousness of some long-awaited, much anticipated, triple the recipe PANCAKES!