Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sugaring, pt. 3

View from "Siberia"

Truck with 325 gallon tank

Students collecting sap.

As you can see from the above photos, sap collecting conditions have been less than ideal. On Monday we had snow for a good part of the day and then rain in the late afternoon. It was also the last day for the students, who go back to class tomorrow, so the crew will be much smaller going forward. Will be interesting to see how things go without them. Today was the last day for Mary, an alum, who was a joy and a hoot to have around. Thanks! The next few days look good in regards to weather conditions and sap collecting. It's been about 4 weeks since we first put up buckets, with a few more weeks to go.

Today, Anna (alum and fellow collector), asked which area or run was my favorite for collecting. I said Maloney, though I had to add that it was also my least favorite, as I managed to blow the transmission in one truck (it was only a matter of time) and get another stuck in that particular bush. It's actually two bushes and really the only ones that are in the woods. The other collecting areas are on the main campus of NMH, the old campus in Northfield, and in several peoples yards. Being in the woods is what I imagined a large part of sugaring would be about, and Maloney doesn't disappoint. I'll try to get a few photos.

You can find more info here and some photos here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

D.I.Y. Cooking Handbook

photo by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

Saw this today in the New York Times Dining & Wine section. In keeping with the last few posts there's a recipe for maple vinegar which looks interesting. There's also a recipe for kimchi and some useful resources. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sugaring, pt. 2

Firing up the arch.

The evaporator.

Sap flowing into the larger pan of the evaporator.

Once the fire gets going and the sap starts to boil things get a bit steamy.

Skimming off foam and impurities.

Draining boiled sap for the finishing pan.

Sap well on its way to becoming syrup in the finishing pan.

The finished product, bottled and ready for use.

The sap has started to flow and we're getting enough to make some syrup. The basic process is fairly simple: bring sap to a boil to get rid of excess water and concentrate the sugar. In practice it means paying close attention to a number of details, such as keeping the fire at a constant temperature and keeping the sugar within an acceptable level, somewhere around 66%. The whole process remains a bit of mystery to me as I've been too busy learning where all the various buckets are and trying to collect in as efficient a manner as possible with a team of students and other workers and volunteers. The weather has been a bit on the wet side, which means that a lot of the snow has melted, but has also made some of the roads in to some areas muddy morasses. Today we produced 115 gallons of syrup, which is something of a record (thanks in large part to the reverse osmosis machine which extracts a good amount of H20 before boiling). Hope to get some photos of the collecting process and the lines and vacuum pumps that are in place.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The basic setup. Tap, bucket, lid, and maple tree.

Starting to flow.

The crew working hard to get the last of the days buckets in place.

The sugaring has begun at Northfield Mount Hermon. After a week of getting trees tapped, buckets in place, lines set, and pumps in working order, we've started to get some sap. Still plenty of snow on the ground though, making collecting a bit of a slog. Up til now the amount of sap collected has been fairly low, but things are looking up. Today we collected around 1500 gallons. Tomorrow should be even better. The students who signed up to work this past week helping to collect, boil, and bottle syrup have done a great job under some trying conditions. Hopefully some of them are already looking forward to next year. I'll post again soon, with some photos and description of the collecting and boiling process.