Sweet Dreams

Whilst I’ve been beavering away in garden and greenhouse, watching seeds popping up through the earth, leaves on hedges breaking from their buds and generally watching Nature kick into life and stretch sleepy arms towards Spring and yawning the fresh dawn, friends in other places are still shaking off the blankets of a Winter that has been much harsher than the mild one we’ve just experienced here in the UK.

Recently I was fascinated to read about some friends’ story of making their own maple syrup. Laurie and I “met” via Ravelry over a jolly good recipe for Gluten Free Kanelbullar that she kindly gave me. She lives in Upstate New York, a place I hope to visit one day. Last Autumn/Fall, she and her husband John managed a trip to the UK and we had the pleasure of meeting them in person rather than just online as they were able to visit us briefly on their way back from staying in North Wales. I like hearing about the lives of my friends who live in other countries as much as they like hearing about living in Wales so when Laurie mentioned they were about to start boiling down the sap they collect from their sugar maples I asked her if she could take some photos and very kindly they did this and posted them in my Ravelry group for us to see. They’ve also very graciously allowed me to reproduce them here as I’m sure some others of you who aren’t on Ravelry would be interested in this process.

I ADORE maple syrup. I use it on porridge, I use it in cooking both sweet and also occasionally savoury to enhance and bring out other spicy flavours. I love the delicate, smokey, nutty, sweet nuances so different from other more overpowering sweetening foodstuffs. I once looked into why we aren’t able to produce maple syrup here – and resigned myself to the fact that wishes are not horses and this particular greedy beggar was never going to have oodles of home grown maple syrup so it remains a very special occasional treat for me. I just love the idea of it too, nestling in my mind with pumpkins and Fall/Autumn colours that seem to reach a whole other level for our friends in Canada and US. I loved seeing the process being carried out by people I know and seeing a different kind of “homemade, homegrown” item being produced, one I know I’ll never experience. I hope you enjoy seeing it too.

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Collecting the sap from the trees

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Preparing the cooker

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The frozen maple sap thawing out

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Heating it up on the outdoor cooker

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Full steam ahead!! (looks like a steam railway engine is about to hove into view!)

Here’s what Laurie has to say about the rest of the process;

We generally give it 2 days (and the night in between) to finish off two 32 gallon containers of sap. The ratio is roughly 40 gallons of sap/1 gallon syrup. Pics here show our first “batch” for this weekend. One big container is now down to the pot on the stove. I filtered it through the felted wool funnel when it was fairly thin, to remove the ash and twigs that occasionally fly in! Adds a nice hint of smoke 😉 Now we wait for it to boil down to syrup consistency. I just eye-ball it, but “real” producers use a hydrometer to measure the density of the liquid. I take a spoonful, spread it on a plate, let it cool, then spoon it up, pour back on the plate, if it holds at a steady stream, it’s ready. If anything, we under-boil as you risk overdoing it and then it crystallizes in the jars. I don’t mind a thinner syrup anyway, goes further. Pancakes for dinner tonight!

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Yum yum yum!!!

Huge thanks to Laurie, John and their daughter for sharing their hard work!

If all that gorgeous looking syrup has made you hungry then you’d best go find something to munch on! I quite fancy a maple and pecan pastry right now after writing this post out – but I think I shall be good and restrain myself… :0)

However, luckily there are lovely knitting projects that can distract from the maple cravings and direct them to a less sugary but equally sweet resolution. My friend Claire bought me this Maple Leaf Knit Shawl pattern recently so this should definitely keep me occupied for a while once I’ve cast on! And my friend Katie is planning on making this lovely hand knit t shirt Sugar Maple out of some BFL yarn she has dyed and spun. I can’t wait to see it.

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