Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Maple Sugar Boil

How about this?  Years of Mother Nature's handiwork on display.  If I could have asked the host to "get ready" for me to write about what it's like to go to a maple sugar boil, I couldn't have made up a better opening photo.  

A window sill in the sugar shack lined with maple syrup bottles, each illuminated with the light of the setting sun.  I imagine that each bottle is a maple syrup sample from a different year, but I didn't get a chance to ask.  Please notice the sap buckets attached to the maple trees just outside the window.  This is the epitome of being "bottled at the source."  (ha!)

I have always known that maple syrup is 100% natural and created from reducing the sap of maple trees.  But until you stand and look at the trees dripping sap into buckets and then watch the sap boiling away in the wood-fired evaporator until it is ready to be dispensed into bottles, do you really understand how natural (and miraculous) maple syrup is.

I want to show you a series of photos that I took to let you peek behind the curtain to see the magic of a maple syrup boil.  
A wood-fired evaporator is at the center of the maple syrup boiling process.
This section of it is where the sap goes through the first boil - it has high heat and throws off a lot of maple steam.  Yes, maple steam.  It is steamy and it smells delicious in a sugar shack.  Many of the seasoned maple sugar boilers told me that the first shower you take after a boil actually smells like maple.  (It does!)
I wanted you to see the maple steam filling the sugar shack.  It hangs in the air around the revelers.  We all joked that we were getting a natural facial and that we would look even younger when the whole process was through.  
This section of the evaporator has four channels, which gives the sap even more surface area to boil against, so the liquid reduces even faster in this area.
When the glass tool (measuring buoyancy?) registers a certain level within this metal holder, they know that the sap is getting closer to syrup and they move it to another evaporator. 
That's my friend, Lance pouring the molten liquid into the second evaporator. 
While this is happening, the clean empty bottles are warmed on a tray over the evaporator.  Warming them keeps the glass from cracking when the hot maple syrup flows in.
When Paul and Lance judge that the maple syrup is ready, they decant it into the bottles.
Isn't it beautiful?  It is nature liquefied.

I want to thank everyone (especially Paul, Dana, Lance) for letting me join in on all the fun.  It was a wonderful experience that made me feel just a little closer to Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I will always remember my night at the sugar shack.  

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