Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Making Manitoba Maple Syrup, Part 2

Let the cooking begin!  Managed to check in with Amanda and Ed this afternoon.  The sap flow is slowing (it's about a two week window of opportunity Ed figures), but they have buckets and buckets of sap so it's time to start making syrup.  Now, everybody has heard of the sugar shack, right?  I asked why all the cooking is done outside and Amanda told me that it's not only because you're boiling off most of a five gallon bucket of water.  The humidity from that alone would be a little wild in the house but the bigger problem is that the moisture produced is heavy with residue; the sugar shack's roof close to the boiling pots already felt a little 'slimey'.  Amanda told me that even cooking outside, she will feel the residue in her hair and on her face tonight!  One certainly wouldn't want that in the house!

Amanda and Ed's sugar shack is a pretty easy A-frame of wood and metal siding.  It's really just about cutting the wind and keeping snow, rain and debris from getting into the work area.  Inside, they've repurposed a wood stove that used to be in the house.  They also have a little propane camp stove going on the side.  Apparently, the camp stove is a bit more efficient; it brings the pots to a boil faster and keeps them boiling easier.  The wood stove is more cost-effective because they're using wood from their own lot, which they cut each year for their indoor heating.  Beyond that it's really a matter of scraping together all the old pots, pans, roasters and anything else that will hold liquid and heat up!  The length of time the sap is boiled varies widely: it not only depends on the sap itself, but the temperature of the stove, the temperature outside and such variables.  It is possible to boil the sap too long, and end up with something more like taffy or even, if you're really not paying attention, hard candy!  Amanda will largely be monitoring the 'boil' all the time!

I still find it rather incredible that a five gallon pail of clear sap will boil down to one little pint of golden syrup.  Amanda and Ed will pour the syrup hot into canning jars and the jars will seal themselves.  They don't filter their syrup, so they sometimes end up with a little bit of sediment on the bottom of the jar.  The jars are not put into a water bath canner or anything like that.  Amanda and Ed know they stay good for, well, almost a year is about all they've ever been around!  They've usually run out before it's time to tap again!  After opening a jar, it should be kept in the fridge!  Makes it all seem rather easy, doesn't it?  

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