Spring comes earlier for maple sappers. Robins or green shoots in the garden means a missed maple sugaring season. The first unseasonably warm day in February, or even January, is our harbinger of Spring. I panic, thinking I’ve missed the early run with highest sugar content destined to become Grade A light amber. I tapped six sugar maples right here at Centerbrook, down by the Falls River, and nine more at my home in Deep River.
For a few weeks in February, maple syrup is my raison d’etre, occupying enormous amounts of time collecting the sap, boiling it down, finishing it off, and then, of course, consuming it. During ideal conditions, when nights are cold, in the twenties, and days are sunny with temperatures in the forties, each tap can yield as much as a gallon of “sweet water” per day. The drip from the spiles replaces the weather forecast: slow drip means daytime temperatures slightly above freezing; fast drip means upper thirties and into the low forties; if the bucket is full, there was no need for a winter jacket.
Evaporating takes the most time, reducing approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup. The evaporator is also what defines making maple syrup a macho sport. The discussion of “rigs” is akin to NASA or Nascar palavering. I’m not writing about stainless steel reverse-osmosis technology, shiny commercial evaporators with automated controls and manicured cordwood stacks. This is about backyard sugaring with a Connecticut Swamp Yankee ambience. Continue reading The Big Drip by the River