About two years ago it hit me- that sick feeling (it may have been the morning sickness) in your gut when you realize your family is expanding and following that your bills will be expanding too. I decided that we would be cutting our spending immediately and the easiest place to do that would be with our grocery bill. We already shopped at Aldi on a budget and grew a garden to freeze for the winter. My husband was already and avid fisherman and hunter, which offset our grocery cost. So I started reading about the growing movement called “urban homesteading”, which can include growing your own food, making it from scratch, preserving food from your own garden or from other local growers, making your own clothing or even just buying second hand goods.
The next two years were a whirlwind of larger gardens, learning to can and preserve our veggies and learning to make everything from scratch, I even recently learned how to make some of our frozen venison into jerky!
This winter, with a little inspiration from our city councilman Wally, my husband and I decided to take on another project- maple syruping.
After a quick run to the Tractor Supply for some spiles, the conical shaped metal pieces that are stuck in to the tree, we were ready to go. We drilled holes into our largest maple trees and pushed the spiles in. Instantly sap started flowing. We were floored. Could it really be this easy? We hung recycled milk jugs on hooks and watched as they started filling. Drip Drip Drip, much more quickly than either of us realized.
A few hours later we had jugs full of sap. First, in honor of Wally, a celebratory drink of the maple sap before getting down to work. Maple sap, which is 90% water is the xylem of the trees, and has a delightful sweet taste, comes out of the tree chilled and my understanding is that it is packed with vitamins and nutrients. After a cold one (of sap) I dug out my jam making pot, the largest one I own, and we dumped in all the sap, cranked up the heat and brought it to a rolling boil. The rest of the night was spent boiling down sap until we had enough space in the pan to pour in any more that we had collected. Our first day of collection yielded approximately 8 gallons of maple sap.
At eleven o’clock that night, after hours of boiling we knew we were getting close to the syrup being done, we both hovered over the pan, candy thermometer in hand waiting for the right temperature to pull it off the heat, it was now reduced down to about an inch of sweet smelling syrup. Finally, it was done. We took it off the heat and let it rest before filtering it into a mason jar.
From almost 8 gallons of maple sap we yielded 16 ounces of maple syrup, and we cannot wait to make pancakes this weekend!