At East Hill Farms, our forests supply the wood that will become our Creamery and the shelves we age our cheese on. But that's not all they give us. We spent our weekend getting something else very “sweet” from our forest (as if a Creamery and cheese shelves weren't awesome enough!)---maple syrup! We try to use all the resources that our land can give us—in a sustainable way of course. And right now, it is maple syrup season. The way that we collect our sap is much like the Native Americans collected it many years ago.
The syrup only comes from the maple tree. The way that we collect it is by tapping the tree (drilling a hole in the trunk about stomach height). The hole usually measures about 2 ½ inches deep and 7/16 inches in diameter. We drive a metal spout into the hole and hang our buckets on the spout. Ideal weather conditions for making maple syrup are cold, freezing nights and warm, sunny days. This allows the sap to flow from the tree into the bucket. We gather the sap from the individual buckets and pour it into a larger barrel for transport home.
The maple sap that we gathered has about 4% sugar content, and we had to boil it down to make the syrup. It takes us about 35 gallons of the “raw” sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. We boiled it for about 12 hours until it reached about 220 degrees Fahrenheit. As Betty says, it takes a lot of patience, but then most things that are delicious take time and are worth waiting for (like good cheese!). We put the hot syrup in a Mason jar with a canning lid on top and the heat seals it up. We eat maple syrup with pancakes, waffles, and ice cream, and then we also make jack wax with it.
To make jack wax, we boil the syrup down further until it gets a soft candy consistency. Then we put some snow in a bowl and pour the hot syrup over it. It cools quickly and is like eating taffy!
Well, this was another fresh off the farm “recipe” for you! If you have any more questions about how we get our syrup, please send them our way. Thanks for reading today!