Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tapped out

I've pulled the taps from the trees, though the sap is still running. Our syruping season is now officially over. The weather is warming up and the buds are starting to open. I've read that when the buds open, the sap changes flavor and becomes less pleasant. And besides, I've gotten more than I hoped for. We collected over a hundred gallons of sap total. Some I gave away, most I boiled down myself.

The boiling process went much better than I imagined. I had a lot of surface area of boiling sap, which means a faster evaporation. After six hours of boiling, I had enough boiled down to bring back to my house and finish off. Figuring out when it was 'done' was tricky, but I'm not that picky about the final product. All in all I ended up with about five quarts of sticky, caramelly sweet syrup.

This picture was taken just a few hours after I poured the syrup into jars. Several days later, a layer of fine particles had settled onto the bottom. Some jars have just half an inch of particles, some nearly two inches. I understand this is 'sugar sand' -- vitamins and minerals that have precipitated out of the final syrup. It's harmless, just strange looking. In commercial syruping operations, this sand gets filtered out with fancy equipment. But I'm not fancy, and so the sand stays.

The boxelder (okay, 90% boxelder, 10% amur maple) syrup doesn't taste at all like regular maple syrup. The maple tang is missing, and in its place is a caramell, marshmallowy (to steal a word from my friend Kathy) flavor. My husband sniffed it and said the smell reminded him of the old KarmelKorn shop we had at Maplewood Mall in the 1980's. It does, kinda sorta. But the taste is different.

How can I explain it? I can't, really. You can't explain a brand new taste (other than 'tastes like chicken,' which this really, really doesn't). So, I am at a loss. But regardless, it is good. Very good. Guess you'll just hafta go and make some and taste it for yourself. Next year.


Michelle said...

I've wondered about tapping our boxelder trees, and thought I might try it next year. We tapped two maples this year. I too had a tough time at the end of the process knowing when it was done. Just guessing was my final indicator! I let the sugar sand settle for a few days and then dumped the 'good' syrup off, throwing the sand out (just because I didn't like how it looked).

Jo said...

We used the 'best guess' method too. One batch is runnier than the other, but it still works on pancakes and such.

Knowing that the sugar sand has lots of vitamins and minerals in it makes me want to use it in baking somehow, maybe in cornbread or pumpking bread or something that can handle the maple flavor. It probably tastes like ash, though. We'll see ....

Thanks for the comments!