Winter is (nearly!) over and that means it’s an especially sweet and sappy time of year for life at the Center. Not only are birds singing and the sun shining but - as you may have heard - it’s sugaring time at Macomber.
We have come a long way since we started making syrup three years ago. We knew nothing about syrup production then, but set out, staff and kids together, to learn how. We talked to knowledgeable people, visited local farms, read a few books, and watched lots of videos online. We had many meetings to discuss our findings, and I for one drew lots of clumsy sketches on the whiteboard. But late that February, after we settled on our plans and collected our equipment, we ventured through wet, knee-deep snow to set our first spiles in the beautiful old maples that dot the Salem End Road side of the property. Much to our surprise we collected way more sap than we knew what to do with and were very grateful when Emily van Nort graciously stepped in and offered to boil down our many buckets of sap into something we could handle. We learned a ton that year and proved it was possible. Most importantly, we made some delicious syrup.
The following year we decided to keep the entire operation on site. We cut and chopped our own wood from fallen trees in the forest and built our own evaporator from cinder blocks and stainless steel buffet pans. We had another banner year of sap collection and stored bucket after bucket in a refrigerator dug into a mound of equally plentiful snow. We spent over two weeks boiling down close to a hundred gallons of sap. It was a lot of effort but we had a superabundance of syrup in multiple batches of varying quality (though all quite tasty).
This year we really pared down our operation, partly out of circumstance (it’s been a tricky winter) and partly out of growing experience. We cut half the amount of wood as last year and spent only four days collecting sap. We reduced our boiling time to two days, one to boil the bulk of the material down and one to refine the concentrated sap - what we call “proto-syrup”. We put all our efforts into one batch. With a more efficient process, our final product is more consistent this year. We still ended up with a gallon and a half or so of maple syrup.
Making syrup is a pleasant process overall but like anything rewarding it also takes hard work and tedium. It’s old New England alchemy, turning water into gold. We think this is our best batch ever. Come taste it for yourself!