It was our first venture into the world of sugaring – and we heartily accepted the offer of Helene and Larry Vanderburgh and Analise Rigan and Merritt Hults, to observe on a small scale this wonderful tradition.
When we arrived at the Vanderburhgs, the group was assembled around two pans steaming above a fire.
In one was a boiling mixture of clear maple sap and water and the other a batch a thin amber colored syrup in its infant stages of the boil.
As we waited for the various pans to boil, we checked out the Vanderburgh’s pails attached to the various maple trees in their yard. We learned that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to male just one gallon on syrup.
After a while the amber syrup was ready for finishing (which requires further boiling up in the kitchen atop a stove). How do we know when this moments is ready? Why, by using the tried, true and tested and very precise scientific tool used to analyze the readiness of the syrup: a handle of a spoon, when dipped into the liquid in the pan measures about an inch and a half up the handle.
That’s the sign for it to be taken inside and finished on the stove, where a candy thermometer would measure its progress into the next stage of making grade A syrup
While the Vanderburhgs had the ultimate goal of making syrup to bottle, ready for waffles and more, Merritt had one specific goal: to recreate a childhood treat: Maple Syrup Taffy.
To make taffy the process involves heating the just finished syrup and pouring it into a pan of fresh, white snow. Rule number 1 . Avoid yellow snow at all costs. Rule number 2. Avoid yellow snow at all costs).
What Merritt was attempting to do was make a deliciously chewy taffy. That would be achieved when the syrup reaches the 235-degree stage -- as measured by a candy thermometer – with Helen drizzling it into the pan of snow.
For whatever reason – despite the best intentions of everyone, we instead enjoyed what could best be described as a maple syrup snow cone (without the cone!). Regardless, the Maple Snow was delicious, as we dug our spoons into the amber ice. You had to be quick, because we were soon slurping Maple syrup flavored. ice water.
With a picnic that follow, of veggie soup and cold cuts, crackers and cheese – and getting a massive dose of vitamin D from the warm sun, we have missed so much -- it was a great day in the “Daks.
Thanks to Helene, Larry, Merritt and Analise for a great day!