“As early as 1663, the great English chemist, Robert Boyle, told the learned world of Europe that ‘There is in some parts of New England a kind of tree…whose juice that weeps out of its incisions, if it be permitted slowly to exhale away the superfluous moisture, doth congeal into a sweet and saccharin substance, and the like was confirmed to me by the agent of the great and populous colony of Massachusetts.'”
-from A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America by Donald Culross Peattie, original copyright 1948.
COMFORT WEATHER is weather that fits like my faded old red sweatshirt. It doesn’t pinch or pull, the proportions are pleasing, and I can relax and be myself when I wear it.
The past several days felt so comfortable (overcast, blah) and just right for March. The temps subtly fluctuated either side of the freezIng point; the range most days was 30-34 F., a bit like wiggling your pinky, or like two kids wavering on a teeter-totter near the balance point before one of them inevitably thumps to the ground.
(Tuesday was sunny and a bit warmer and we all wanted to be outside.)
HOW’S IT RUNNING? Just as it should, the sap ran strongly midday and choked off at night. We got the daily quota of cold, clear sap; we established a pattern of daytime boiling.
At first, this round of sugaring weather caught us off guard. On March 2nd (33, overcast, no wind) the sap didn’t run at all. On March 3rd (34, overcast, no wind) the sap gushed later in the day until 3-4am. We lost some sap when the tanks overflowed but by 5am we were boiling and catching up.
BOILING STATUS: Today was Day Ten. We’re making what we call Ultra (very light Fancy grade syrup).
SAP SWEETNESS: About 2%.
The syrup we’ve made this week has been heavy with sugar sand. You feel its grit when
you run the syrup scoop along the troughs in the front pan; you see it as a dark band when you pour a pail of hot syrup into the filter tub. Here is a reprinting of the primer on niter (the proper term) first published in the 2010 blog.
SEVEN-DAY NITER PRIMER, Day One:
Niter is what you don’t get when you purchase a gallon of maple syrup. Like coffee grounds, it stays behind in the filter. Every time you boil sap, either in a pot in the kitchen or in a modern evaporator, stuff precipitates out of it. That’s niter. Sometimes it resembles sand, hence the common name for it, sugar sand. The quality of the niter changes day to day and year to year. Sugarmakers consider niter a nuisance for two reasons: It burns onto the syrup pans and it clouds up the syrup. They devise ways to filter the hot syrup so it flows clear when you pour it over your waffles or vanilla ice cream.
MUSIC TO BOIL BY:
Sugarhouse 2012, Volume 1 (Hey, 2012 crew)
ABBA (perfect twelve hours into a boil)
Enya (just right when it’s snowing, as it was earlier today)
LATE BREAKING NEWS: It’s seriously snowing. Il neige. Det snør ute.