Syrupin’ Time Keeps This Family Running
THE FIRST WEEK OF MARCH, things get crazy at my house. We wash buckets, clean the sugar shack, purify jars and tap trees. We hook up the sled to the snowmobile. It’s syrupin’ time.
As March moves forward, the sap will run because the days are warm and the nights are cold.
On a typical day of sapping in mid-March, we’ll wake up early, and usually five of us kids will go with Dad in his truck to our first location. One of my brothers will follow with a snowmobile and sled in tow. The back of the truck will be filled with buckets.
We park the truck at the top of a hill and the snowmobile below, in the valley. Then we set out, carrying empty buckets. We climb to the top, where our taps start, and work our way down, emptying buckets on trees as we go.
When my buckets are full, I put on the lids, slide down to the valley, put them in the sled and grab more.
We bring the full buckets out of the valley, using the snowmobile. Then we load the buckets into the truck.
The snowmobile takes a new batch of empty buckets back down. This process is repeated until we cover all the trees. When we head home, we empty the buckets into clean garbage cans outside of the sugar shack. This keeps the sap cold until we can boil it.
The first batch goes from one of the cans to the preheater, then the boiling pan. We strain the sap as it goes into the pan. Throughout the boiling, we continue to run a handheld strainer through the sap.
We keep the fire stacked up and watch as the boil starts. When we have a rolling boil, we maintain a close eye on the temperature. When hot enough, we empty the pan into a bucket and take it to the house. Some of us work at straining the syrup two more times, purifying it until it’s absolutely clear. While it’s still hot, we put it into jars. And that’s maple syrup: liquid gold.