Sugaring Time

The first crocuses have appeared

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and it is heartening to see honeybees enjoying their pollen.

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I spent the day outside with the bees, boiling off the maple sap we collected yesterday. On our small set up, a ten gallon pan sits on top dripping sap into the boiling pan. Theoretically, this means that the boiling pan never loses its boil because only a slow steady drip of warmed up sap falls into it. But when I wander off into the garden to poke around, things can slow down anyways, because I haven’t kept loading the firebox.

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Here is the scene that greets me all day as I try to keep things boiling.

We have had a strange syrup season. While we usually get at least a run or two of sap in February, we did not get a single run until well into March and then bam bam bam, run after run.

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This is our neighbor, Jim Taylor at his family’s sugarhouse. He and his brothers have five thousand taps to our forty. They have been boiling for ten days straight and Jim said they had 10,000 gallons of sap to get through today.

While my syrup has been mostly dark, Jim says they have made a fair amount of the pale Frenchmen’s blonde syrup. This is what gets the big money around here, so they are happy about that. I like the dark stuff better because it has more maple taste.

As I was writing this, my Jim came home from his teaching job and grabbed me to go collect the day’s sap. I took the camera along to show you the sights. As we put our sap buckets down on some maple trees down in town, we have a collecting tank in the back of a truck for the collecting runs.

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Here Jim is pouring a couple of gallons of sap into the collecting tank, with one of the generous maples in the background.

Yes, I know. Maple sugaring is not exactly a dramatic process, but it is a beautiful one.

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And a sweet one too. Here’s the recipe for the most outrageous maple dessert we make. I made it for the menfolk last night as they watched NCAA basketball. Their team won so there was happiness all round. Go UConn.

Maple Dream

First layer
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine and press into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes then cool.

Second layer
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup cream, whipped

Blend and spread on first layer when it is cool.

Third layer
3 cups maple syrup, the darker the better
3 eggs
2/3 cup flour

Mix in a saucepan then bring to boil, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Cool and spread on second layer.

Fourth layer
i cup cream, whipped

Spread on third layer.

Lots of layers. Probably why we only make it once a year. But you won’t regret the effort if you try it. I promise.

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