Maple Syrup Mayhem

9 02 2015

maple_tree_snowWhile the snow melted off the dormant grass, the sun was shining on the trees in my yard. It was February 12th, and I could only think about one thing. The light gleamed back at me, reflected from the beautiful, silver spile that I had driven into the tree trunk earlier. Yes, it is finally that moment I wait for all winter long… it’s time to tap the maple trees.

 

My first time was about 8 years ago. It was exciting. It was refreshing, to learn to make something myself. But most of all, it was very, very memorable. NOT in a good way.

 

Back then I lived in my first purchased home, a tiny little ranch, literally no bigger than a three car garage. It sat on two acres, and gave me countless freedoms to teach myself some basic homesteading skills. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that first day when my 1 gallon jugs filled up with that tasteless, colorless tree sap, I knew that it was time for the next step: to boil it!

 

Beamans-Maple-Sugar-Shack-sap-from-the-maple-treeIt was with great pride that bundled myself up in my knitted hat and scarf, headed outside, and emptied my jugs of clear sap. I had just purchased this giant aluminum pot, the only thing big enough to hold several gallons of tree sap. I dumped each of the jugs, hung them back up, and lifted the heavy container.

 

Back inside, I turned the stove top’s peeling metal knob to ‘High,’ and then I waited. And waited. It took MINUTES for this large of a volume of- essentially- water to start to bubble and finally boil. I turned the heat down to simmer and went about making myself something to eat.

 

New-Hampshire-maple-syrup-canningThe sap boiled for almost 3 hours, slowly evaporating the water from the sugar. By the time I was ready to turn it off and go to sleep, it had only shrunk by less than half. I had no idea how long this would take to some day get to actual maple syrup. I knew that it was about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, but I didn’t even have a clue how many gallons of sap I might end up with from my three taps.

 

mapletapThe next day was a bright, sunny day, and the tree heated up quickly, which meant that by the time I got home from work, the sap collectors were overflowing! I beamed at my trees. Then I grabbed my pot to empty them as quickly as I could. Back to boiling!!

 

This time, I had so much sap, that I decided to pull out a second, smaller pot, to get them both boiling at once, and hopefully speed up the process to get me that sweet, sweet nectar ASAP. Once both pots were happily churning off that excess water vapor, I returned to my evening tasks. I made dinner, started a load of laundry, and then set about cleaning up.

 

wiping counterI grabbed the counter sponge to wipe up a couple of water droplets that had jumped out of the smaller pot. Then I turned and noticed a couple of darker drops on the breakfast bar that needed wiping too. “That’s weird,” I thought, “I swear I just wiped that counter a minute ago. I’m surprised that I missed that.” Then I heard the washer buzz, and left the room to switch loads.

 

kompetiblog2013_wordpressAfter starting the dryer, I walked back into the kitchen, noticing that a cloud- literally, a CLOUD- had formed in my kitchen. “Huh, that’s a lot of evaporation,” I thought. There was a noticeable mist in the air hovering just below my white tiled ceiling, and, while I appreciated the humidity in the dead of winter, I wasn’t sure that my ceiling would like it as much as me. I flipped the switch for the exhaust hood, and the cranky, 60-year-old motor got to work feebly evacuating some of the air. I checked on the sap, and everything looked good. Both pots were making progress, and the clear water was now donning a faintly yellow hue.

 

While I waited for more boiling to occur, I grabbed the stack of mail and returned to the breakfast bar. Before I could set down the papers, I stopped in my tracks.

 

There were drops of amber syrup on the counter… AGAIN.

 

dropletsI stared incredulously. I KNOW I just wiped this counter. The drops were not near each other either, they were spaced apart by about 6-8”. In fact, they were in a linear row, about 4” back from the counter’s edge. I paused, as my brain processed this pattern. Then I looked up.

 

There, above the breakfast bar, was an architectural  bulkhead wrapped in faux wood paneling. And, as I watched, the light from the recessed cans illuminated a glistening stream of water condensing on the very edge of the bulkhead. Then, it dripped down onto the counter in a rich, heavy, syrupy drop.

 

I was inadvertently making maple syrup on my ceiling.

 

maple_syrup07171055With horror, I began to slowly turn my gaze. As I assessed the other walls and ceilings, I realized that there were almost invisible drips running down each of the dark wood paneled walls. It was EVERYWHERE.

 

Staring at the enormity of this mess, I took a deep breath, and decided what to do. I debated calling my partner, to warn him of the hilarious gravity of the situation before he got home. Instead, I sprang into action. I turned off the two electric burners, I opened the front door, and I grabbed a sponge- or three. As I laboriously wiped down EVERY square inch of surface in my kitchen, my mouth cracked open, and I just laughed, and laughed. I couldn’t believe what I had done! For weeks after that, I would find a spot I missed. The hardest part to clean was the flimsy window film that  I had put up over my single pane windows. It just tore under the pressure.EvapAndSteam

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe good news is that I managed to still create some deliciously sweet, Grade B maple syrup. And I learned my lesson. No more than ONE pot boiling at a time for indoor evaporation! I am NOT a professional evaporator, but I feel like I’m one step closer to a homesteader.

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3 responses

9 02 2015
DZMoss

I love this story! You are an inspiration with your problem solving, Kelly.

11 02 2015
kaleskitchen

Awww, thank you, Moss!

18 02 2015
kaleskitchen

Haha… glad I could inspire others to proactively identify clouds of maple syrup in advance. The easiest way to make mistakes is to just use other people’s mistakes instead, but I promise you, making your own is WAY more memorable!

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