Despite the scoffers, I decided to help him along in his dream by giving him tree taps and a how-to book on home syrup producing for Christmas.
He very anxiously awaited the right time to put in the taps.......temperature freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Despite the fact that this was a very bad season for sap production, he did manage to get about 12 gallons of sap for his efforts:
(Because of lack of planning, he had to go out and buy gallons of water at the supermarket. Next year - which by the way is the 'Farmer's Lament' - we will try to remember to save milk jugs.)
We had been told by many people that it would be disastrous to boil the sap indoors. The 'sap steam' is very sticky and adheres to your walls and cabinets, providing a nice sticky surface for all the dust and cat hair floating around the house.
Second choice would have been cooking it over a wood fire. We declined this idea because A) it would have taken a ton of work to keep a wood fire burning for hours and hours. and 2) We had nothing appropriate to boil it in, although many "friends" thought we should purchase one of these:
In retrospect, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea. The price would have been more than made up in the savings we would have made because we actually boiled the sap like this:
Two full tanks of propane later, the sap was ready to be brought inside for its final boiling. (and no, Hubby did not stand there staring at the pans of sap for hours and hours. After all, a watched pan of sap never boils. He puttered around in the yard and basement, pausing occasionally to check on the sap and add more as the levels in the pan went down.)
It was a rainy Saturday morning when Hubby put the final pot of sap on the stove. He watched it carefully as the sap got darker and thicker. There were some anxious moments when he thought the sap would all boil away and he'd end out with nothing! But finally, almost instantly it seemed, the sap hit the right consistency and became syrup!
For his 12 gallons of sap, he ended out with this:
I did have to laugh because Hubby has been uncharacteristically stingy with his syrup. And Hubby is never stingy with anything! He's always happy to give away his time, money, and the proverbial shirt-off-his-back if you asked him. But besides myself, he's only given away a scant quarter-teaspoon to anyone who wants a taste. As a matter of fact, he attached the story of The Little Red Hen to his Face Book page when he announced his syrup production, thus staving off anyone who wanted to be invited for a pancake breakfast.
We finally had our first chance to indulge in the fruits of his labors:
Hubby said he'd keep on doing it as long as it was fun, and he deemed it lots of fun! Besides the French Toast, he's enjoyed Maple Coffee and Maple Ice Cream. (I've had to discourage him drinking it straight from the bottle).
I know next year can't come fast enough for him.