Posts Tagged ‘maple syrup’

Maple Syrup Season 2013

Posted on April 29th, 2013 by Tonia 11 Comments

We came, we went, we made over 30 gallons of maple syrup.

Since my last post, I have swung wildly from “Still like winter! Winter’s OK! Take your time, I’m fine!” to “Oh my god, when will it eeeeeeend. I haven’t seen the sun in 8 long months. I’m going to die.” But turns out all this late-season cold weather and snow that we’ve (I’ve) been whining about made for a pretty great syrup season! It was like the old days, before global warming, when spring was an actual season that lasted a few months instead of just an afternoon melt session in March where winter cedes the win to summer in the time it takes to frantically brew iced-tea and shave your legs.

My maple-syrup-loving self was delighted that spring didn’t vanish before our eyes, but my I-NEED-SOME-DAMN-VITAMIN-D self was just a liiiiiittle crabby about the full-blown snowstorm we got on April 18. Yeah. We’re talking around 20″ of new snow.

So before we talk about our awesome maple syrup season, here’s a taste of what we were dealing with around here last week (I’m looking for a little sympathy here, in case you didn’t pick up on that.)

Ok, that’s quite enough of that. Moving on.

This was the first season in several years where we needed snowshoes for tromping around from bucket to bucket in the woods. The fact that the roots of the trees were insulated by all that snow made the season progress slowly and steadily, instead of the sap gushing out at light-speed and being done within a week. The slow runs made for easier collections because the buckets would only be 1/4 to 1/2 full each time we went out, rather than brimming/over-flowing.

The sugar content was very high and went up as the season progressed, starting out at about 2.5 and ending at 3.5. This allowed for a shorter boiling time and lighter syrup (the longer the sap cooks, the darker the syrup.) We achieved the ideal honey-amber color and smooth, buttery flavor with each batch.

My little brother Danny firing the evaporator and checking sap levels in the pans.

Lunch, enjoyed in the sap house while we worked: Curried butternut squash soup and fresh-caught trout.

Mike pouring finished syrup into the canner.

My mom, Sammi (Danny’s girlfriend), and me canning up a batch.

As a special treat in the middle of a particularly long day of boiling, we made up a whole pile of doughnuts and dunked them in the hot syrup.

You guys…I’m not even going to attempt to explain how out-of-this-world delicious they were. There are no words– just loud, happy, grunting noises and chewing. We will be doing this every year from now on.

As usual, syruping was a lot of work and we all sigh a little sigh of relief when it’s over and normal-life returns. But being together, working out in the fresh air and quiet woods with my family, joking and talking and laughing as we go, is what makes it special and worthwhile. It’s a yearly tradition that has taken place almost every year of my entire life!

Happy 26th season, Maple Moon Sugarbush! Thanks for the liquid gold, and the memories.

Oh, and Mr. Spring? In case you didn’t get the memo…it’s April. You can go ahead and warm up and melt all this snow and start pushing up tulips anytime now. That’d be great.

P.S. Posts from seasons past can be found here.
P.P.S. I promise I will start taking REAL photos again…Instagram is great for documenting little moments here and there, but I think we can all agree that my cell-phone camera compares poorly to the real thing.

Maple Moon Sugarbush: The 25th Season

Posted on March 19th, 2012 by Tonia 4 Comments

25 years ago, my parents tapped the maple trees on their sugarbush for the first time. They had just moved back to the States after serving in the Peace Corps for eight years in South America. Being from Chicago originally, my dad was familiar with Northern Wisconsin from vacationing up here with his family as a kid. He started looking around for land and stumbled upon the property they have now called home for 25 years.

It was way back in the woods- eleven miles from the closest town- and had nothing on it but a small log cabin, built with hand tools, and maple trees galore. I mean, TONS of maple trees. My dad’s dream of having a maple syrup operation was looking more realistic. They didn’t waste any time. They hobbled together a makeshift evaporator that first spring, and borrowed taps and pails from anyone who had some to spare.

My mom skimming the foam off the cooking sap – 1987

One of the beauties of maple syrup is that it can be made in a completely low-tech manner. The Native Americans made it using birch-bark “pails”. Over the years we have upgraded from the original cinder-block situation you see above, but it’s still a pretty basic operation: We tap the trees, the sap runs out into the pails, we collect the sap, cook it down, and syrup happens!

Little helpers: my God-brother Brady and me. Age 2 – 1987

My dad’s parents drove up from Chicago to taste the first batch. They love the Northwoods {honeymooned at a rustic lodge up here back when the only transportation to this “wild north land” was a train…unless you wanted to drive the whole way on a dirt road!} and ended up buying a summer cabin about a half hour away.

The operation expanded pretty quickly and my parents bought a draft horse to pull a sled through the woods to make collecting easier. At their most productive, they were tapping about 1200 trees. Customers navigated our 1/2 mile long logging-trail driveway to buy our syrup. We had a sign nailed to a tree half-way down it that read “Keep going, almost there!” because some people would chicken out and turn around thinking they were lost. “Who would live way back here??”

Now, 25 years later, we have scaled back to a comfortable number of 250 taps, and the second generation is gearing up to take a much larger role in the process.

Happy 25th birthday, Maple Moon!!!

Click here to see syruping posts from the past few years.

Scenes from Syrup Season 2011

Posted on March 21st, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

Syrup season kicked off this weekend at Maple Moon Sugarbush! Mike and I helped collect and boil…

Maple steam pouring from the saphouse roof.

Very steamy group shot next to the evaporator.

Maple looooove.

Unfortunately, we are missing most of the season this year due to a business + pleasure trip out to the Pacific Northwest. We leave tomorrow and will be gone for a couple weeks. I will probably be tweeting while on the trip, but most likely I won’t be posting on the blog very much, if at all.

When we get home, though, it will be time to start our garden. AND!! Our new neighbors {renting our cottage} have three chickens, and we talked with them about maybe letting them brood out, so we might have some little chicks pecking around the farm soon! I can’t even explain how excited I am for spring/gardening/chickens. So, stay tuned for posts about all of that coming up in the near future.

Until then, stay in touch via Twitter!

Making Maple Syrup IV: Canning

Posted on April 9th, 2010 by Tonia 6 Comments

Maple Moon Sugarbush is starting to wrap up its 2010 sugaring season this week.  My family and I will be pulling the taps out of the trees and washing up all the equipment soon.  We made about 25 gallons this year, which means we have plenty for our Sunday pancakes and to replenish our friends and familys’ supplies. 

It has been fun for me to share this long-standing tradition with you all.  Please let me know if you have any questions about the various steps in the process {tapping, collecting, boiling, canning}.canning

Since boiling can take all day, we’re usually canning late at night.  We’re all exhausted at this point, but knowing we’ll be waking up the next day to pancakes and fresh maple syrup helps us push onward.

We use mason jars for our syrup because they’re reusable, and the syrup looks so beautiful in them.  The lids are boiled in water, and kept hot until they’re screwed on.  As they cool, the jar seals.  The syrup doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it has been opened for the first time.


The first taste of syrup blows your mind.  It is silky, buttery, hot, and tooth-achingly sweet.  If you grew up eating Aunt Jemima or Log Cabin syrup, you need to run out right now and find yourself some real maple syrup to try. 

One of my favorite traditions growing up was to heat up a small sauce pan of syrup, and then drizzle it over snow.  The syrup hardens on the snow and makes maple-taffy.  It changes your life, that’s how delicious it is.tasting

Maple syrup is a golden gift the trees give us every spring…a true miracle of nature.  The most amazing things in life are this way, it seems…you can’t quite wrap your mind around them.  And even after you learn the science of how it works, you’re no less awed by it…on the contrary, it seems more like a miracle than ever.