Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keep Up the Fire! Maple Syrup Time

WOJB , FM 88.9, started playing Pete Seeger's "Maple Syrup Time" a couple of weeks back, but at Bide-A-Wee the sap really started flowing just a few days ago. We have about a dozen taps in now, and I'll put a few more in over the next couple of days. Our best tree this year is putting close to three gallons a day in the repurposed pickle bucket from our corner burger joint. Yesterday we brought home a little more than 15 gallons of clear sap, which, after many hours of boiling, has been reduced to what will fit in Big Blue:

I think I forgot to mention, in my "Ode to a Pot," that Big Blue is also an excellent sap reducing vessel. I've done this batch on my stove in our kitchen here in Saint Paul. Everything I've read warns you not to do this, for fear that the billowing clouds of steam will remove your wallpaper and cause the plaster to fall from your ceilings, but we have a really well ventilated kitchen, with a skylight and lots of windows, and it seems to work okay. I mean, I wouldn't boil down hundreds of gallons of sap here, but for smaller batches, and finishing, it works fine.

Nonetheless, I plan to set up a burner for our very big enameled stock pot, light a fire, and do the next reducing at the cabin. Gotta get a move on here, the sap is calling me.

I tweeted about the bluebirds, appropriately enough. There's the dude bluebird in the birdbath. Big Blue, it turns out, is pretty close to Bluebird Blue.

Here he is in the "Grousekill" apple tree:

"Maple Syrup Time," is not just a charming little ditty, but also quite a comprehensive primer on how to make maple syrup. Since it's by Pete Seeger, it contains a nicely unobtrusive life lesson or two, as well.

First you get the buckets ready, clean the pans and gather firewood,
Late in the winter, it's maple syrup time.
You need warm and sunny days but still a cold and freezing nighttime
For just a few weeks, maple syrup time.

We boil and boil and boil and boil it all day long,
Till ninety sev'n percent of water evaporates just like this song
And when what is left is syrupy don't leave it too long
-Watch out for burning! Maple syrup time.

I know it's not the quickest system but each year I can't resist it.
Get out the buckets, and tap the trees in time
-Making it is half the fun, and satisfaction when it's done.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time.

My grandpa says perhaps it's just a waste of time.
Ah! but no more than this attempt to make a happy little rhyme,
So pat your feet or swing your tail, but keep in good time.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time.

I'll send this song around the world with love to ev'ry boy and girl,
Hoping they don't mind a little advice in rhyme.
As in life or revolution, rarely is there a quick solution,
Anything worthwhile takes a little time.
We boil and boil and boil and boil it all day long.
When what is left is syrupy, don't leave it on the flame too long.
But seize the minute, build a new world, sing an old song.
Keep up the fire! Maple syrup time.

Text (except the song) and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw (Mary took the bluebird shots)


Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

Blue bird blue is my Creuset. I love that.

To a successful sugaring season, Brett!

Rob said...

Mrs. Butterworth and Aunt Jemimah built a Log Cabin. OK, sappy. Oh the puns. Ever since I tried REAL maple syrup, I can't go back to those bottles of thick maple like substance goo.

I can appreciate the work involved. Good luck with your syrup!

Trout Caviar said...

Thanks, Sylvie, Rob. I think we're done now. Still waiting to see if the one birch I tapped will give us anything. It has been another strange, up and down spring in the era of "global weirding."