Sunday, March 29, 2009

Late Winter Project: Maple Syrup

In the waning weeks of winter, I noticed that we were running low on maple syrup so decided to buy some more for the house. With my focus on buying local I figured New England (VT, Maine, NH if I could not find Massachusetts) based syrup would be good enough. So I went to the local grocery store and found nothing but Canadian syrup. Now I have nothing against Canada. My dad was born there after all, but we have maple trees all around us, so why don't we have local maple syrup? I was informed by several people that the Canadian government subsidizes maple syrup production, making it cheaper for them to ship and sell.

Now, I know that at this point a normal person would have simply found some locally made syrup, plunked down a couple of extra bucks to stick it to those Canadians, and moved on with their life. I felt like this was not good enough. Being a biologist, I could ID maple trees even in the winter. I found out that the local hardware store sold those maple tree spigot-thingies (called a spile... who knew). So off I wen with my 6 year old son to tap trees.

And low and behold the sap began to flow...

I collected it all, boiled it down on the grill, and made some syrup (this is an early batch)...

In the end I made about 24oz of syrup. When you figure that I spent $10 on spiles, $6 on extra buckets, $30 on propane, and $3 on cheesecloth for filtering the final product. Since syrup cost about $1 an ounce to buy, and it cost me $2 an ounce to make, I can see why this is not a very popular practice. On the other hand I learned a whole lot and had some really nerdy fun during the process.

I don't think you can put a price on that!

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