Monday, March 23, 2009

Maple Syrup

It's maple syrup time in Minnesota. The conditions have to be exact to make the sap run: freezing temperatures at night and above freezing during the day. Over the past four years I've participated in the maple syrup operation at Saint John's University Arboretum, under the direction of Brother Walter Kieffer. This year I'm probably not going to get out there-- we were on vacation during the tapping event and it's unlikely I'll be "on call" for syrup collection the next few weeks. I have managed to see the whole process at various times-- it is arduous. It takes a community to make maple syrup! What you really want to consider is that the ratio is 40:1, which means 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And you get it by boiling down the sap over a wood fire-- for hours, and then finishing it. In a good year the monks make about 100 gallons of syrup from 800 trees. And then you have to clean out the buckets and taps for next year! It's kind of lost its appeal for me over the years-- it's snowy and wet and muddy and cold most of the time this is happening. But it is cool the first time you do it-- and the syrup is out of this world. They don't sell it (not up to code out there at the sugar shack) but the monks use it and give it as gifts. I used to have a contact and got several quarts, but now not so much.

Enjoy this video from the St. Cloud Times that illustrates the tapping process. Click here.

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