It’s a good year for sap in the northeast. The prolonged cold temperatures and late snows seem to have provided a surplus of the clear liquid — which is thicker than water, slightly sparkly and a little sweet to the taste. Most satisfying of all, for me, is that it’s there for the tapping — moving up and down the tall silent maple trees that grace the woods separating our house from our neighbors.
As the days get warmer the tap begins to rise up the silver trunks, sending liquid life to the tree tops to help produce leaves. At night as the temperatures drop, the tap moves back to the roots, the tree uncertain, as I imagine it, that it is ready to awaken and spring forth. The trick is to catch the sap — coming and going — in order to boil it down into the deep, amber liquid gold that is maple syrup.
And that’s exactly how my neighbors and I spent the last couple of days.
First, you gather the buckets of sap (no small task) and strain the liquid for bugs, bark and any other stuff that may have fallen into the pails.
Then, it's slowly heated outside for hours in a long shallow metal pan set in a frame over a large wood fire. We needed lots of dry sticks, strong backs and patience to keep a rolling boil going for hours.
Lastly you wait for it to all together, which it did early this morning — about 1:00 am — when the bubbles covered the surface of the eight foot pan. After multiple tastings the consistency was determined to be about right.
As for the taste, it was declared delicious and the best syrup yet! Good thing as exhaustion had set in for all involved.