Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to Boil Sap to Make Maple Syrup

 by Joanna and Libby

            The tools for boiling sap have changed a lot in the past half a century.  Some of the earliest tools used for boiling sap were a fire and a hollowed out log, but now we use highly efficient machines that are called evaporators. 
            The main differences between the modern ways of boiling sap and the ways they have done it in the past are that it is more efficient; it is safer; it makes a higher quality product; and the amount it costs to produce the syrup have decreased.  Another big difference is the fact that now we can continuously boil sap. Instead of boiling some and then having to stop, we can just keep adding more and more sap until all the water boils off and makes syrup. An invention that has helped to speed up the process of boiling sap is the fluted pan. This pan allows heat to get closer to the syrup and helps it to boil faster.

Steps to Boiling Maple Sap:

            First you collect the sap from the trees and filter it using a paper filter. You are filtering out sludgy minerals that have gotten into your sap.
            Then you pour sap into your evaporator. Maple sap is 2% sugar and 98% water. So really what you are doing when your boiling sap is boiling off all the water. So you wait for the water to boil, which is at 212 degrees.
            Once most of the water has boiled off, you keep adding the rest of your sap until all of it is added and all the water has boiled off. Then you are just left with all of the sugar. The sap darkens as all the water boils off.
            Then you wait for the sap to boil into syrup, which is at 218 degrees.  When the sap starts to boil it looks like water, and as you get closer to the point where the sap is syrup, the bubbles get smaller. If you aren’t careful the sap can boil over and spill out of your pan or burn your syrup. Then you use a syrup hydrometer to test the density of your syrup and when it floats to the red line you are done.
            The last thing you do is take the syrup off the fire and filter it again.  After that you are ready to bottle and sell your syrup. 

Please Note: Photos are from 2013, we have not boiled any sap yet this year.

After collecting the sap you pour it into your evaporator

Then you wait for the water to boil off.  
Once most of the water has boiled off you add more sap until you are just left with syrup. 

Then you wait for the syrup to boil. 
Then you use a hydrometer to test the density of the syrup. When the Hydrometer floats you are done. 
Andy using the Hydrometer. 

Using the hydrometer in the syrup. 

The last step is to filter the syrup after it has come out of your evaporator. 

Finished Maple Syrup


      Tapping a maple tree is a very simple task. It doesn’t require skill as much as it does time and patience. You have to get all of your gear on and tromp through the waist-high snow with buckets of tools and sap sacks. That is the only part that requires stamina and strength. The rest of it is just time-consuming, but it is kind of fun.
from left: hammer, hand drill, tap and sap-sack with holder

            To tap a maple tree you need to first identify the tree. A sugar maple (Acer saccharum) has brown twig tips, white splotches up and down the upper branches, and has opposite branches. A red maple (Acer rubrum) has red twig tips, opposite branches, but not as many white splotches.
Opposite branches on a sugar maple.
white splotches on the top branches of a sugar maple
            After identifying the tree, you must choose either a small tap or a large tap to use for the tree. Match a drill-bit to the size of the tap and drill at a 20-degree upward angle into the tree. make sure to keep at least the length of a hand away from the any other old tap holes.
hand distance away from old tap hole
 Once the drill-bit is a finger length into the tree, keep the drill going in a forward motion, but pull the drill slowly out of the hole in the tree. It is important to keep drilling at a forward motion when pulling the drill out because that clears most of the sawdust. If you don’t do this, sawdust gets compacted in the back of the hole. This prevents sap from flowing. To make sure, use a stick to clear any remaining sawdust.
drilling at a 20 degree upwards angle
            When you finish drilling your hole, take the tap that corresponds with the size drill-bit that you are using and lightly tap it into the tree (If you hit the tap too hard, it might break). Stop hammering once you reach the collar, which is located in the middle of the tap. if a tree is 12-18 inches you can put one tap in, and if a tree is more than 18 inches in diameter you may put in two taps.

12 inch tree

18 inch tree
lightly tapping the tap into the hole

the tap in the tree
            Once the tap is fully hammered in, go get a sap sack and a sap sack holder. Put it together and test to make sure that the sap sack securely in the sap sack holder.
the sap sack hangs on the tap
            Now all you have to do is wait. After a while, you will have full bag of sap, which you will need to boil down.

by Booth and Miguel


History of Maple Sugaring

History of Maple Sugaring
By Jack Michael and Cam
            The Maple Sugaring industry is huge. It dominates the shelves of Canadian and American supermarkets. Canada, the leading maple syrup producer, produces 27 million liters of maple syrup a year. Canada makes over 75% of the world’s maple syrup supply, most of which comes from Quebec. Creating maple syrup is a very advanced occupation. It has many different technologies to create the best tasting syrup in the least amount of time. But before this, it was not the case.
It is not completely known who first found maple sugar, but it has been guessed that the people living in the northeastern part of North America first discovered it. It isn’t known when it was discovered, but it is thought to be hundreds of years before the European settlers came over. There are lots of different legends about how maple syrup was discovered, but most of them revolve around a person who substituted sap for water and cooked venison or some meat with it. When they cooked it, it boiled off the water and left the syrup that coated the meat. There are many sugar-making rituals and traditions that take place before the sugar harvest. Some of them are dances, such as the Maple Dance on the first full moon of the spring. The first full moon of the spring is called the Sugar Moon, not to be confused with the sugar bush (a plantation of maples). Another legend is related to the Earth Mother, Kokomis, who made the first maple syrup. Now Kokomis made a hole in a tree and maple syrup poured out. However, her grandson, Manabush, was worried that if the sweet gift of the maple tree was so easily obtained, the Indians might become shirtless and lazy. So he showered the top of the sugar maple with water, thus diluting the maple syrup into sap.  
Settler Carrying Sap 

Native American Tapping

Native Americans Cooking

Algonquin tribes used stone tools that make a v-shaped incision in the trunks of the trees, and then they would insert birch bark tubes into the tree. On the tubes, they would hang birch bark buckets. They used hollowed out tree trunks filled with hot stones to boil the sap into syrup. Another way you can turn sap into syrup is to let the sap freeze over and the take the top layer away that would be frozen water. All that remains is concentrated maple sap.
The European settlers learned how to tap trees from the indigenous people, but as time went on they started to mass-produce it and the ways of the native people are, for the most part, gone. They started to make contraptions that could cook boil sap faster and they would tap trees faster. It wasn't a small operation anymore, it was very commercial. 
            Many people enjoy Maple Syrup. Not just as a food but as a occupation and a hobby.  But all this joy that has come from Maple Syrup, is all thanks to the innovativeness and intelligence of the ancient Native Americans of North Eastern America.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ice Caves

            Yesterday we took an epic trip to the ice caves. We took a three-hour drive up to Lake Superior and walked a mile to the caves. Then we saw the ice caves, after that we walked back and took the drive back home; sometime in the drive we got pizza.
            The long drive up there wasn’t as long as we thought, and soon we were up there. Once we got there Andy and Donna’s car got let into the parking lot and Katy’s car had to drive almost a mile to find a parking spot, which slowed us down a lot.
            Once we were on the ice, we had to walk almost a mile to get to the caves. It was a long walk and it was definitely worth it. The ice caves were amazing; it was nice to see so many people trying to get out here. We picked the best day to go out there. It was really warm after such cold. The caves were a once and a lifetime experience.

            The drive back was nice to have because it let people rest after a long day. We had pizza somewhere in the car ride. The rest of the ride was calming; we played 20 questions. Once we got home we crashed in bed and didn’t have a closing.
by Jacob

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9th

Today, March 9 was super fun. First we started off the day with a chore rotation, then we enjoyed the warm weather by playing basketball in the red barn, walking to the tree house, going on a run, photo hikes and more. This afternoon we all went bowling and had a great time. Now we are waiting for our sushi dinner to be made and we’re looking forward to astronomy tonight.

by Libby

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pancake Breakfast Day

            Today we started our day at 5:30 am. We all woke early to prepare and set up for the Pancake Breakfast.  We transformed the Homestead into a well functioning cafĂ©. At 8:30 locals came and around 9:00 parents and friends from the cities arrived after their hour-long drive.  The Homestead was very busy throughout the entire morning and finally calmed down at 12:00 when the Pancake Breakfast was over. We cleaned up and were all exhausted, having been working for six and a half hours. The day was only half over so we enjoyed the afternoon by getting fresh air and taking long naps. We ended our long day with watching Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol and enjoying buttery popcorn. We were all relieved to get to sleep.  The Pancake Breakfast was a wonderful success and we have enjoyed the whole experience.

by Joanna

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday March 7th

            Today is really chaotic. Everyone is finishing up the little bits and pieces for the pancake breakfast tomorrow and every single person is stressed and trying to squeeze in just a little more time to work on their projects. I think that people are really excited about the breakfast, because people are beginning to feel homesick and want to see their parents. Some of the projects include handmade cutting boards, soap, beeswax candles and hot cocoa mix. We have been working on the projects since the beginning of Farm Stay, but it was only this week when people realized how little time we have.
            It’s already past the middle of Farm Stay and although I think that we’ve already gone through the period of time when everyone starts getting sick of each other, tensions are still high and emotions are getting the better of a lot of us.
            We’ve also been working to clean for the breakfast, which means that our Friday deep clean is taken to a whole new level. Deep clean involves doing your job in more depth, but because we are actually having guests come to the homestead, we’re also thinking about the comfort of others.
            During today’s community work, we were setting up for the pancake breakfast, which means making signs, moving furniture and preparing food as best we can for tomorrow. The results of our work confused us quite a bit, because after getting close to a place in one week, it is hard to navigate when everything has been changed.

            In all, Farm Stay is probably at its best right now. Everyone has settled in and new friendships have begun to turn into older ones. I think that everyone is doing well with micro eco and by tomorrow, I think that we will all be ready and prepared for the big event.

by Sally

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6th

I guess I don’t know how to start this blog post because honestly it was just a normal day. However, I didn’t say that a normal day couldn’t be fun. Besides trudging through the waist deep snow in -15 degree weather. I really enjoyed March sixth. We got to get outside and play some broomball. We also got a big chunk of micro eco time to prepare for selling our products at the pancake breakfast. Sara Nelson also came up to the land school to have a discussion about the books we had been reading over the course of this Farmstay.
Another reason this day was so much fun was because that was the day we discovered doodle pacman on Google. Being trapped in a house with 14 people started to take its toll and we had nothing to do besides play ping-pong and listen to the same 5 songs the whole day. It was the only game we were allowed to play and being the 21st century adolescents that we are, we would’ve taken that chance in a heartbeat. Overall, a very fun day. It just shows that even a normal day can be fun during Farmstay three.
by Miguel