Friday, April 18, 2008

Maple Syrup Making

Here is the long awaited showing of the making of maple syrup from beginning to end.
(or close to the beginning-I suppose I could have gotten pictures of Dan and I walking around and tapping the trees and sterilizing all of our equipment, but I can't go back in time)

As the bags on the trees start to fill up we go collect the sap. Some days there is almost nothing in the bags and other days the bags have to be collected twice. It just depends on how the sap is running that day.

We bring the collected sap to a lean to that is next to our shop where we put it in big blue barrels until we are ready to start boiling down a batch. The stove you see was the stove in our house when I was growing up. When Dan and I got married we bought one of those glass top stoves and this one was put outside just for the purpose of boiling down sap. I have also made supper on it on occasion when the power has been out as it is a gas stove and I can used a match to light the burners.

Here is the sap in the barrel. You can see that it looks just like water. Sap is essentially sugar water and as you boil it down the water evaporates and eventually it gets to become syrup.

This is the sap boiling down. The white line that goes across the top of the pan is where the level of the sap started. We start out by putting about 15 gallons of sap in the pan and keep adding sap as it boils down until we have put in about 40 gallons of sap and have boiled it all down until there is about an inch of liquid left in the pan.

Then we strain it while it is still boiling hot through two kinds of straining material. It goes into a smaller stock pot that we will bring into the house to finish off the syrup.

This is the syrup when it is nearly ready. We bring it back up to the boiling point and start to can it when a hydrometer floats at just the right level.

I wash all the jars and then put them in an inch of hot water in a 200 degree oven to keep them sterilized while the syrup is boiling.

I also put the jar lids into water and keep them in boiling water while we wait for the syrup to be ready. (I realize that the water isn't boiling at this point, but it did start boiling not too long after I took this picture--I had to keep my focus on making sure the syrup didn't boil over onto my nice stove.)

We pour the syrup into jars, put on the lids, and screw on the twisty part of the lids. Then we wait to hear them seal. The lids make a popping noise as they seal just like the popping noise that is made when you open up an airtight jar. Normally when you can you have to put things into a canner for 20-30 minutes, but because we keep everything sterilized and the sap is boiling when you can it (as well as the whole sugar content on the syrup) the jars seal up and are well sterilized.

All of our syrup this year has been a lovely amber color. Sometimes it can be much darker. Darkness in color can be attributed to lots of different factors. Sometimes it bets darker because of the sugars getting burnt during the cooking process, but some years the sap is also less clear because of weather stuff that I don't fully understand.

Hope you enjoyed looking at all the pictures and learning about how maple syrup is made. When you go to the store and look at the prices of maple syrup as compared to that other syrup stuff you will probably understand why there is such a difference. (Of course real maple syrup tastes tons better than the fake stuff, too. I have been blessed to have only rarely have to taste the other stuff. My parents started making maple syrup when they first moved out to our place and now Dan and I are carrying on the tradition and even making enough that we will be able to sell a couple jars at either the local farmer's market or the gallery)


Nin isn't the only one to experience an earthquake. My brother in Iowa has now felt one, too. Although, I imagine it wasn't too rough.

He sounds really sleepy in this video--if you look at the time on the news cast, I can tell you I was not awake yet (well, I had briefly been awake, but had already fallen asleep--who knows maybe I woke up because I felt the earthquake, but probably not).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Won Something!

I am doing my income taxes today, but I just took a quick break to look at blogs (okay, this was an early break--the only thing i have done with the taxes today is just gather all of our receipts and info--Now, I actually have to log onto TurboTax and get started) and guess what----

This is sooooooooooo exciting!

I just won two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Grumperina colorway!!!!! I love Grumperina. In fact I am working on a second pair of Jaywalkers at this very moment (well not this very moment, but I brought them with me into town today and they are currently in my purse--I may need a study break). Of course, I will make sure to put a little scowl on my face as I knit the socks in honor of Grumperina, even though I have to say I am just so excited--hmmm, I have said excited a bunch of times in this post.

Anyone who has been watching her blog recently will have seen this very interesting way that she is putting together some striping socks (read the following entires as well-including how to do the heels--so cool!) with four colors of yarn. I look forward to doing that someday as well (although this colorway is of the self-striping variety)

Anyway--on with my exciting day of figuring out our taxes.

(By the way--I have taken pictures of the entire process of making maple syrup now, so expect a post on that very soon--I got some fun pictures!)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April, Maples, and something new

I made it home safe and sound the other night even though the road
was a bit mushy and now the snow is starting to melt again.

I thought you guys might to see part of our maple syrup operation
(I make it sound like some big thing, but it isn't really--it's just boiling the sap from the maple trees down until it makes syrup) To start I will show you a picture of two of our big maple trees out front with the sap bags on them.

These trees could have as many as three bags on them. We only have 20 taps and a fair amount of trees that produce, so we weren't able to tap quite as much as we could have. Next year, we will probably double what we have.

We were able to finish up one small batch of maple syrup on Sunday. We got about 5 1/2 quarts of syrup out of 45-50 gallons of sap (sap has to boil down a long time to get to the syrup stage).

This is one of our jars. This year the color is about the prettiest that it can get. Usually the syrup get darker than this.

This is just another picture of that jar, but I just liked the look of it so much I had to try a couple of different shots!

I'll go home and get some more pictures of the process tonight and in the next few days.

Now, for an addition to the story of my going in the ditch on Good Friday.

The reason I might not have been paying attention to the road as well as I should have (hey, I could have about a million of these excuses) was that as soon as I got home Dan and I were to go over to the home of one of his co-workers to look at a stray 9 month old puppy that had come to their place. We have been wanting to get a yellow lab-ish puppy for a while and this winter we had to put down our old Dalmatian, Bombero.

(Poor old bombaroo was 14 1/2 and his poor arthritic legs were getting to be too painful to walk with--he finally came to the point where he wasn't happy to see us anymore and couldn't get up--we will miss him. He was my mom's dog and we got him when I was 14. Dan and I inherited him when we bought my parent's place because he would not have enjoyed moving into the apartment in town)

They had this little yellow girl that had shown up at their place and had been hanging out for over a week, so we went to check her out. She is a cutie pie and our black lab-german shepherd-whoknowswhatelse, Dakota, just loves her. They play a lot and get into trouble as well.
Soooo, this is Montana our new teenage puppy. She enjoys finding dead and decaying animals, catching voles, belly rubs, and rolling in the snow. We are teaching her to stay home and not go up on the road--She already is limping from some kind of a mishap--(when you have 40 acres to run on putting a dog in a kennel just is not the right thing to do (Bombero was never in a kennel and lived to be 14 1/2--that is about the longest dalmatians live-he outlived all of his siblings by several years--One of our other dogs (a little mutt we named Pab) lived to be 16-something about that freedom must be good for a dog).

One last picture from the camera because it just turned out so nice ;o)