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Thursday, April 7, 2011

4/07/11 IS IT SYRUP YET?


Thursday, 8:00 AM.  30 degrees, wind W, calm.  The sky is partly cloudy with high, puffy white clouds and the barometer predicts the same.  It is a gorgeous morning.
    The sap run yesterday  was not very heavy , about 25 gallons, just as well as the slushy snow was difficult to trudge through.  I think it did not get cold enough Tuesday night for a bigger run, but that’s O.K, there is enough sap stored for at least two gallons of syrup.  Andy will boil all day today.  When it is syrup is something of a mystery and a matter of taste.  One can use a hygrometer to determine 86% sugar and consider that quality syrup, or one  can compare the liquid at various stages of the boiling process to sample bottles of syrup representing the various officially sanctioned quality syrups, starting with #1 Amber and getting darker from there.  The bottle shown is about #1 amber and the highest quality syrup, although I personally prefer the taste of the darker syrups.  Andy I think mostly cooks the sap until he likes its looks and consistency, and I imagine that’s the traditional method, except I believe the Indians usually cooked it down to maple sugar, as that is the most storable and transportable product.
    Speaking of which, I have heard a good Ojibway maple syrup story and I apologize if I haven’t got it exactly right.  It seems that originally maple sap was actually maple syrup, and all an Indian had to do was cut a branch, lay under the tree, and let the sweet liquid drip into his moth.  Now Winnibojo ( Hiawatha to the white man) saw all his people laying about doing nothing but getting fat and lazy from maple syrup, so he persuaded the maple tree to make its sap only slightly sweet, so that the Indians had to work very hard indeed to transform it into maple syrup and maple sugar, and thus be an industrious and honorable people again.
    Maple sap, straight out of the bucket on a cold morning, is itself a refreshing drink, slightly sweet, and chock full of essential minerals.  But my favorite maple drink is black tea made from maple sap about half boiled down to syrup.  A piping hot cup of it in the afternoon will pep you right up all the way to dinner.

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