Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Once March in Wisconsin comes around all you hear are things like, "Get your trees tapped?" "How many you tap this year?" "Your trees runnin' yet?" Maple Madness takes over the lives of anybody with a few acres of sugar maples. Of course the big guys who collect with old milk trucks from tanks along the edges of roads gathering the sap of a million tube-tapped trees ask things like, "Is the RO (Reverse Osmosis) ready for the next batch?" Maple syrup is a way of life for rural Wisconsinites.
So, last week when the trees were still not running, we were scared. Trying to imagine life without maple syrup is nearly impossible!
Fortunately, the frost heaved up out of the earth in a big muddy gush and some of the trees began to drip. Any tree on a north face down low in the sugarbush is still dry, but the trees up higher on the slopes, and especially those facing south, were running on Sunday. We collected just enough sap - about 120 gallons - to cook Sunday and finish and bottle on Monday. That 120 gallons of sap boiled down to about 3 gallons. The ratio of sap to syrup is typically 40 to 1 depending on sugar content.
Last year was a great syrup year! We pulled six batches in all. This photo below represents one bottle from each of the five main batches. Notice the color gets darker as the season progresses. Now notice how dark this year's first run is. Our first run this year looks a lot like our fourth run last year!
The trees won't run if it doesn't freeze at night... or when it's raining or windy or snowing. That means our next window for a sap flow is not likely until Thursday, but even that looks a little iffy as Friday is forecasted with BIG wind. Saturday and Sunday might offer up some hope if the daytime temps get warm enough. It's a wait and see game - a ponder and evaluate the weather forecast game!
How do you know when the season is over? The old-timers out here will tell you to watch the trees, because when they bud, the season is over. The sap doesn't stop running, but the syrup takes on a funky flavor. We often collect our last batch of sap right about the time we see tree buds bulging, and we know we're done when you wouldn't want that syrup on a pancake! Late season syrup comes out somehow savory and a bit metallic tasting. Horrible on a waffle, but fantastic for salad dressing! I call the last batch my "Salad Syrup" as it's great in savory dishes! Once we taste the funk, we clean up the equipment and call it done. Last year our "Salad Syrup" was batch number six of a long and exhausting syrup season. This year we are worried that next week's sap might turn out to be our salad syrup! If that's the case, there will only be a little syrup to share. William says, "Maybe a slow syrup season will lead to a fantastic morel season!" That's forever-optimistic farmer thinking, for you!
Once the season is done, the taps are pulled out of the trees and within a few weeks, the tree heals its tap holes.
It was about 90 degrees next to the cooker in the sun on SUNday!
IN THE STORE?
Let's see, I'm pretty sure we have lots of things MAPLE this week!
MAPLE SAP COFFEE is back! This is a culinary gourmand treat only to be found where fresh maple sap can be found! We grind up some delicious organic coffee then brew it with our fresh sap. This coffee is great with warmed milk, on ice or straight up! We're selling it in the store by the quart.
Also with MAPLE: Banana Maple Chocolate Chip Muffins, Gluten Free Power Bars with Dried Plums, Cranberries, Almonds and Maple, Maple & Cardamom Granola, Maple Amaro to sip on ice, and of course, maple syrup!
For those of you looking for some farm fresh help for your weekday menu, I will have Tuscan Bean Soup and a Grain Salad made with quinoa, brown rice, veggies and herbs. Grab a loaf of par baked Cardamom Sourdough from the freezer to warm up at home. These items are great for a weekday meal when you don't feel like cooking. Of course, we have Blueberry Farmhouse Bars, Grandma's Magic Bribe Bars, and Haystacks for your sweet tooth.
NEW TO THE STORE: Chicory Chai for those of you looking for a delicious coffee alternative. Chicory, little blue-flowered farm weeds have a tap root that when roasted and steeped, looks a little like coffee. It's a drink originally from France, celebrated in times of coffee shortage, and now making its way back into the culinary world. I've blended it with lots of Indian spices to elevate its deliciousness. It has no caffeine.
William has been busy turning recycled scraps into really cool bluebird houses if you want to enjoy the birds in your yard. We've got LOTS of sunflower seed bird seed for $10 for 20 pounds in the store.
Hopefully Kia will dry out enough to finally give her a deep clean! This time of year on a farm with a white dog...and a "mom" nicknamed "Little Miss Flossy" is a bit of a challenge!
We'll be open this weekend 9-5 and would love to see you!
Sending love from the farm,
Sarah "Little Miss Flossy" Brenner!