Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sugaring - Part 2

Today, we tapped five more maple trees.  The sap is not at full flow yet, but we have been rewarded with 16 gallons of sap for our efforts.  Today, we started boiling it down.  Last year, I purchased a pan 20"x22" for boiling sap.  Until then, we boiled sap in whatever we had ... never ideal.  We started with a fire pit built from recycled bricks ... again not ideal.  This year, we have improved the set-up a bit.

I have been anxiously awaiting sugaring this weekend.  I looked forward to building the fire, gathering the sap, the smell of the smoke, being outside near the fire (for hours), etc.  I had only planned to fill the pan once (11 gallons) and boil all the way to syrup, which requires a transfer to the stove indoors when we get close.  I anticipated a whopping 1 quart of syrup for the effort.  We ended up with almost a quart and a half.


Mr. Field and Stream showed up to help.  He always seems interested when I am doing stuff outside ... my outdoor activities intrigue him as most are not necessarily hunting or fishing based.  He helped a bit last year and has obviously been waiting to come back this year.  He helped gather standing dead wood for the fire and tending it.  While we had time, I took the opportunity to show him how to make a bowl using a coal.  The bowl will end up being a serving bowl for salad or something ... it is going to be 10" in diameter and 10" deep or so.  It is going to take a while, but I hope also to try to rock boil some sap in this large applewood bowl.

If you are interested in sugaring, I recommend Backyard Sugarin': A Complete How-To Guide, Third Edition.  If you are interested in coal burning bowls, I recommend, again, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth.  These contain all of the information you need for sugaring or making bowls using coal burning.

Sweet dreams!


  1. I grew up making maple syrup, it was a family affair with us kids running back and forth with the sap pails, the adults tending fire and stirring the sap. The way you described all the smells took me right back to that time, it was a lot of work but the togetherness of my parents and grandparents all working. Being together, the laughing and fun of joking around, the drinking of sap until you were so full.
    The treat at the end was making the sludge from the bottom into maple candy, this sludge was just carmelized sap..... so delicious.

  2. Rock boiling the sap will be a blast ... and I think Mr. Field-and-Stream will be totally into that activity ;).

    Oh, drat! We forgot to go and scoop some clean snow from the woods for maple candy ... oh, well. Next time? :)

  3. Richard, we are still learning and developing our own technique, but it is a family affair. In fact, it is a new tradition for us, because neither Wendy or I grew up doing this. We hope to re-learn some things and pass them forward through our kids. Right now, the girls love checking the buckets several times a day and being near the fire while we boil.

  4. 10" applewood bowl!! I should be so lucky! I don't think I've ever seen an apple tree that diameter here.

    Sadly the same goes with tap-able trees, in northern europe there's a similar tradition of tapping Birch trees - but they need to be 12" and they never seem to get that big in the south london 'burbs


  5. Teaching our children and grandchildren is what it is all about and as far as techniques go, there are as many you can use ie: rock boiling the sap. Every way has it's own unique outcome....... part of the adventure is rediscovering the techniques and having as much fun as possible while doing it.
    I will post some techniques for all to try :).
    Making stone knives? Oh yes, it is difficult and quite involved i will be posting this. I do not have a video camera but will have photos and will post links to awesome videos that give step by step how to do it techniques.


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