Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Very short, Very Sweet End of the Syrup Tale As promised, here's the end of the sap to sugar story of my youth on the farm. Although no photos are any longer available to me at this time, these are VERY similar to our operation, especially the exterior view of the sugar house in the snow by the forest. The photos from top are as follows, jars of syrup of varying thickness and sweetness. A typical bottle as we used to sell, finished syrup being drained from the boiling pans to be left to cool and then bottled. Sap/syrup at a full boil, nearly ready to be drawn down from the pan, a very similar interior as we had. Lastly, similar two pan operation like ours at the boil and the aforementioned sugar house. The only thing missing is the huge wood pile. As F would arrive with the first of the sap, he and R would pour it into large wooden barrels used for that purpose only. These eight barrels were on a long rack along the west wall of the sugar house. The barrels were on their sides with a hole at the top through which the sap was poured, there was a tap at the bottom front to draw out the sap when it needed to be transfered to the boiling pan. Not until after four or five of the barrels were full of sap would the boiling begin, so as not to run out of sap while the pan was hot. although I watched R boiling several times, I was usually occupied with gathering sap and firewood for the operation and doing the many things R had no time for while boiling. He would only come to the house once a day to bathe, eat, and get a couple of hours sleep before going back to boiling. F watched over the sugar house at those times. As the sap turned to syrup it was drawn down and more sap added to the pan. R would vary the times and heat depending on the desired result. Although my aunt and Mrs F would bottle most of the syrup for sale at various locations that had ordered syrup, some was always saved in mason jars as in the photo and put in the cellar for our use through the coming year. I don't recall a time when we had no syrup, it was taken for granted by this foolish boy, as was fresh honey, milk, eggs, and butter. How nice it would be to have those things so available now. Instead, we travel to several local farms that specialize in one or two of these commodities here. I don't recall all the places we sent syrup, but gallons of it were trucked in clear gallon bottles to the two local hotels for their yearly supply. Now the hotels are no longer, just another memory of a wonderful time in my life. The smell of boiling sap in the air, mixed with wood smoke, is like no other in the world. Toward the end of the sap, R would shut down one of the pans and start boiling the sap down further to make the thicker syrup for our own use on ice cream,then maple candies, and a bit of maple sugar at the very last. All of these we kept and savored all year long, usually after a sumptious Sunday dinner. There are things I can reproduce today using locally available products. I love pork roast glazed with maple syrup, pork chops with a light coating of syrup, and my favorite, breakfast link pork sausages with pancakes drenched in pure maple syrup. I don't have these treats often though, usually just when in a particularly quiet mood on a warm Sunday afternoon, even the pancakes. Probably as that's when my aunt would make them for me as a special treat after an unusually hard working week. I'll never forget the elation I felt when , after seeing baked beans, which I can't eat, being placed on the table, and steeling myself for leftovers for me. Then my aunt would appear with pancakes and sausages drowned in maple syrup just for me. Another great memory of that magical time. Until next time, take care.

8 comments:

Mies said...

Very pretty bottles, where can I get a set?..ha ha ha...Not surprising that all good memories have wonderful homemade treats surrounding them...Nice gooey, mouthwatering ending to your story, Mike...Thanks again.....

Sarah said...

Thanks Mike,I remember going to the Maple Syrup place.I remember the little gift shop & the Syrup in the little tin cans.I also now remember that we didn't just pour it on pancakes & Waffles but Real Oatmeal.It wasn't the ready made maple flavored kind but real oatmeal with Maple Syrup poured on top on a cold Vermont Morning. Thanks again for the memories.

Anonymous said...

Ys, back in those days and those places, things were real. If you had maple syrup, it was real maple syrup, and not the artificially flavored stuff we buy today. That stuff is like only an echo of what the real stuff is.
Each location has it's own specialties because of what grew there. I grow tomatoes in Florida, but they haven't the flavor of the ones I remember from my Dad's garden. The soil isn't the same, and no matter how you fertilize, etc. you can't get them to taste the same. And I know that's true, because when I go back to Maryland and have tomatoes grown there, and ripened on the vine, they do taste the same.
One of my childhood memories is taking a wet washcloth and a salt shaker out into my Dad's garden, and wiping down a big, red tomato and salting and eating it on the spot. I wish I had one of those tomatoes right now. Yum.

Mies said...

Anonymous, Thank you, you just zoomed me back in time when I did the same thing. Little girl and her brother sitting in a garden of tomatoes with a salt shaker at my Great Aunt Hatties house in Nickerson Kansas on a hot, sweltry day in July. I can almost hear the song "In The Good Old Summer Time" playing....

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Patricia said...

Hmmmm. Comments section needs work, possibly. My post turned up as "Anonymous", but it was ME! Couldn't have been "Operator Error" could it?

Mike S said...

We know who you are, even if you try to hide it. hehehe

Secondhand Smoke said...

Thats alot of work for tree sap.