Weather, as recorded in the sugarhouse log book:
4/14: Low last night upper 40’s, high today upper 50’s. Partly sunny with cumulus clouds, colder breeze, feels like colder weather moving in. Sap Sweetness 1.7
4/15: Another tease freeze, down to 28 without shutting the run off – must be warmer up higher. Another cooler sunny day. Things are drying out.
Boiling Status: Day nine in this string of days. No one recalls when the vacuum pump was last turned off. Tonight’s challenge is to diagnose and fix the RO troubles.
Since we have now made three different grades of syrup (Fancy/Golden, Amber, and Dark), it’s a good time to read what Chief of Operations thinks about grading systems. He writes:
Martians and Oranges
2015 will be a landmark year for maple syrup grading as a new universal system is being implemented. This grading structure is now the law in Vermont, as well as a few other states and provinces. There is little doubt that the rest of the maple producing areas (northeastern North America is the only area of the world where maple syrup is commercially produced) will soon follow suit. For the first time in the history of maple there will be only one grading system common to all producers and retailers. I believe this move is beneficial and long overdue, though to think it will fully end confusion for the consumer would be naive.
I have been making maple syrup long enough to have a good sense of what maple syrup grades are, but trying to put that sense into words the average consumer will readily understand is something I will never accomplish, like trying to describe the taste of an orange to a Martian. Down through the years, new syrup grades and descriptors have been introduced attempting to unveil the mystique of maple flavor, and often, only added confusion is the result. I will admit the latest attempt is probably the best yet, though generic words like rich and robust used there do little to convey the distinctive flavor of the different grades.
I have heard wine described as one of the most complex naturally occurring liquids, second only to blood. Maple syrup must be in that league as, like wine, its flavor and texture take on an endless array of accents. The nuances of maple are determined by myriad factors including time of year, weather, cleanliness, freshness of sap, how the sap is concentrated and boiled, tree genetics and the soil and topography on which they grow. Syrup characteristics not only change from day to day, but often from hour to hour as it is made. Syrup grading laws dictate density, clarity, color, and of course flavor. The first three are easy distinctions, but it is the flavor criteria that often make it difficult, even for experienced sugar makers, to determine which grading “box” some of the syrups should fit into.
The act of conveying syrup flavor is mostly a fool’s game. If I really wanted a Martian to understand what an orange tastes like, I would give him one to try.