Monday, April 15, 2013

Chanhassen Syrup

 Chanhassen is a Dakota Sioux name meaning "the tree with the sweet sap" in other words the sugar maple tree.   I have been meaning to tap some sweet trees ever since moving to Chanhassen.  This year by chance I found some Maple Syrup making supplies at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and decided this was the year.     After getting the spiles, a book on how to do it and the bags and holders I spent a ton of time trying to figure out how to identify a Sugar Maple tree in in the winter when you have no leaves.   An education session about taping sugar maples at the Landscape Arboretum gave me the confidence to give it a shot.
 Around March 24 I went out and did my best to identify and tap 4 sugar maple trees in a near by forest.  The bag holder things were cheap and work well.
 My trusty Duluth pack has worked great to carry the large items for my trips to the woods each day.
 Mazy has had a great time sprinting both to the woods and around the woods while I work.
 After a couple of weeks of no sap I tapped another big tree and monkey rigged a bucket collection system.  I was pretty sad with some crushed hope after going to see empty bags for two weeks straight.   The season was ending and my brother Heath had long ago gotten sap from his South St. Paul trees.
 Then we got that weird late snow on about 4-5-13 and I found three and a half gallons of sap from the big tree in my monkey rigged bucket.  I have since gotten about 6 more gallons from this one tree and none from the others I tapped so long ago.
 To get a cup of syrup you need about 30 cups of sap.  That is a lot of boiling down.  I tried boiling down this first three and a half gallons on the stove, in various shaped pans, on the grill and on my propane turkey fryer kind of set up in the picture above.  The big pot on the turkey fryer set up worked the best.  Tons of power to evaporate fast.   Maya says the boiling sap "smells like pancakes!"
 Once I got it down to about 4 cups I filtered it with a coffee filter and finished it inside the house on the stove ending with about 2 1/2 cups of syrup.   Not sure why the pic above looks a little cloudy but in person it was clear and beautiful.    It is syrup at 7 degrees above what pure water boils at on that day and location.  I went 9 degrees over and still think it could be a little more thick.  Things change fast at the end however and I didn't want to end up with maple sugar so I killed the boil and am very happy with the results.  Compared to store bought grade A pure Anderson brand maple syrup mine not surprisingly has a more fresh and full maple flavor.   Not to get sappy but almost a floral hint.  Since it all came from one big tree I like to think of it as "single origin" maple syrup.   My girls and I have named this tree big sweetie because I got a 20/1 sap to syrup ratio rather than a more standard 30/1.
The pancakes we used this first batch of syrup on have never tasted better.   Definitely worth the $50 or so in start up gear and 2 and a half weeks of trips to the woods.  

Monday, April 01, 2013

The last month or so

 Made Julia Childs French onion soup recipe again.  Takes much of a day but is so so good.    
 A patch of woods I often drive by that reminds me of a Charles Beck painting.  
 I raced with Steve in the Frozen Fat Forty.
 Jesse Lalonde here won the whole thing on a moonlander.  Why didn't I win the whole thing? I have a moonlander.
 We did win our division.  We also got last place and middle place in our division.
Because we showed up.

 For the win we each got a Surly T-shirt of a blood puking clown.

 Spent a few weekends looking at furniture and drapes.  Another win or was it a loss?
 Did an overnight in Afton State Park with Heath.  Pulk worked great even though there was a lot of up and down hill stuff.  Trekking poles are in my future after using Heath's to help motor up the hills.  Backpack is faster but the pulk really was nice for some of the larger sized winter gear items.
 Made french bread.
 Made Yogurt.
 Replaced this Pin on my coffee roasting drum with my new rivet tool.  How did I manage before?  Pretty much any two thin materials like metal, plastic, wood? that I can drill a hole into I can now connect with a rivet.  I always thought riveting was for "other" more fixety people.  It was both a cheap tool and is super easy to use.  
 I tapped some trees to get sap to make maple syrup.  I still don't have any sap after a week and a half and am feeling like I am the sap for thinking I could get maple syrup from a tree.  Hopefully it is just too cold still in the forest where my trees are located and it will start to flow soon.

 Made some chitterlings   This time in the pressure cooker.  Only one batch of water and 45 minutes later they were done.  Browned them up with some butter and olive oil.
Interestingly image search Chittelings on Google and I think my chitlin pics from a blog post years ago are some of the first pics.