On Saturday February 25th, we made maple sugar from the sap we’ve been collecting. In about a week we had collected over 140 gallons of sap. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. So we are hoping to get about 3.5 gallons of finished syrup; this syrup gets used throughout the year for demonstrations particular at the bake oven where they make a maple wheat bread. (Yum.)
Maple Sugaring Day is a special members only event that gives Quiet Valley’s members a chance to participate in a unique experience. Along with seeing the maple syrup getting made they get a chance to sample pancakes with our homemade syrup, eggs boiled in sap, and potatoes cooked in a dutch oven over the flames. The sap is poured into four large kettles and boiled for hours. It is a strong rolling boil. Sap needs to be added continuously to the boiling kettles. Normally we would do this all day but this year we were trying to beat the thunderstorms, thus we stopped adding fresh sap around 10am to have things cleaned up by 1pm.
Sue and Gary Oiler, the founders of the museum, gave a couple great presentations for the 83 visitors who joined us. Sue talked about the food we were making and why. Maple Sugaring usually takes place in late winter and since the fires need to be tended continuously people usually slept where they were making maple syrup. They’d be cooking there too. Historically this time of year they would be eating a lot of potatoes before they start growing in the cellar. We diced them up and baked them in the dutch ovens, which are small portable ovens. Chickens lay eggs in proportion to the amount of sunlight they get. As the sunlight increases, the chickens begin to lay more eggs. The eggs are dropped right into the kettles of the sap and boiled for about 15 minutes. Then they are hard boiled and a little sweet from the sap.
Gary did a talk on how to tap the trees and helped the visitors make wooden spiles from elk horn sumac. Once the pith is scraped out its very easy taper one end to fit into the tree and the other to direct the sap. Some of the children used the stems of ferns to hang cups from their spiles and collect the sap.
As the big kettles of sap boiled down, they were consolidated into two kettles and then down into one kettle. Once that one was down to about 6 gallons we poured it into glass jars. This was to help keep the syrup until we could boil it down a little bit more inside a building as the storms were coming. The sap was funneled into the jars and through a thick piece of felt to clean out any debris. (I used a coffee filter at home.) When the syrup was poured out of the kettles, we used pancakes to get the rest of the syrup at the bottom. It was delicious. Want to try some of the Quiet Valley homemade syrup? Come out to the Pocono Craft Festival or join us next year for Maple Sugaring!