Aunt Eunice here! I hope you are all doing well. The coldest harvest is now over and the ice house is full to the rafters with nice big blocks of ice. We should have plenty for our needs which is mostly for making homemade ice cream and for keeping the birch beer kegs cold. Now we are preparing for the sweetest job on the farm, maple sugaring. The farmer started tapping the maple trees about ten days ago and has been storing the sap for Maple Sugaring Day. Quiet Valley members are invited to attend and will get to sample buttermilk or buckwheat pancakes with our 2020 syrup on it. They can learn all about the process as it was done in the 19th century. It always amazes me that it takes 40 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup! No wonder it is so pricey in the stores. If you keep cooking it past the syrup stage you can eventually get maple sugar. What a wonderfully tasting sweetener. My husband uses the syrup in place of corn syrup when making sticky buns. What a treat that is!! I learned a couple years ago that the first sap collected has the highest sugar content. Not sure how big a difference there is between the first and the last collected. I also found out that you can make syrup from the sap of other types of tree. Their sap doesn’t have the sugar content of the sugar maple so I imagine it takes more sap and more cooking down to get the sweetness I crave. This is the time of year this particular job has to be done as the sap is rising. Night temperatures need to be below freezing and daytime temperatures above forty. If you miss this window it will be a whole year until your next chance.
Quiet Valley’s sap will be cooked down in large kettles over fires. The ladies volunteering will hard boil eggs in the sap and will also bake potatoes in Dutch ovens using hot coals from the fire. Along with the pancakes it makes a pretty fine breakfast. If you are used to using the syrup you get from bottles shaped like a lady take my advice and try the real thing. The are lots of recipes out there now a days that use this special sweetener so be adventurous and try it in a dessert or a savory dish like butternut squash soup.
Though it may not seem it given the temperatures we’ve been having Spring is just around the corner. Soon we will be cleaning up the detritus from winter, starting our vegetable gardens and mowing lawns. I think we are all looking forward to the longer hours of sunlight daylight savings will bring. Well, that’s all for now. Stay safe, take care and talk to you soon. Aunt Eunice