Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Box elder syrup

In Southwest Wisconsin, there is a small maple syrup industry. Nothing like Vermont or Canada, but a lot of small sugar bushes, some even having a label and are sold commercially. But our farm has no maples ( except one maple planted in our yard).

I had read about syruping, and learned that box elders, being a relative of maples, can also be tapped for sap. Well, box elders are not a very desirable tree, so they grow everywhere. Funny how that works. We have our share, and some are fairly large, with trunks as large as 16". ( roughly 400mm). 

So I bought some spiles, cute little galvanized pails, and got out the cordless drill and set up my own mini sugar bush. ( 5 trees!)

I also am half way through reading Helen and Scott Neering's book "The Maple Sugar Book". They give a good accounting of the history of maple sugaring, and details and techniques of production scale syrup making. The only thing remotely relevant to my experiment was their discussion of the mysterious vagaries of sap flow and weather. I found it to be hard to figure out which days (and which trees) would flow each day, but in the end, got a fair little store of syrup for my effort.

We had our first sampling this morning on pancakes, and it was good. Not as "mapley" as maple syrup, but sweet and mild flavored.

Because each day's batch was so small, I couldn't use a hygrometer or candy thermometer to monitor concentration, so went by ( very inexperienced) eye. First day's batch went too far and crystallized, but each of the others seem to be fairly close. since I don't know the actual content, nor did I monitor temperature, these will stay in the refrigerator till used, so we don't get mold or bacteria growth.

Note that the syrup is not clear, but varying degrees of cloudy. This is because I also did not bother to strain out the sugar sand. It is harmless minerals that precipitate out during heating, and is probably actually good for you.

All in all, a fun experiment, and I might expand the "bush" to more of our trees next year.

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