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John Ingle
March 3, 2009 | John Ingle

The trials and tribulations of making maple syrup in March

It’s early March and Mother Nature is gradually loosening her icy grip over the long frozen lakes of western NY. It’s been a “real” winter with close to 100 inches of snow, 6 weeks of snow cover, lows near -10 and steady single digit temps. This cold weather makes you want to read some Robert Frost.

The first glimmer of spring is the 40 degree days that bring the thought of rising sap in the sugar bush trees. It’s the first chapter in the annual yearbook that we call our maple syrup “vintage”. The question is; will it be early, late, short or bountiful? Only time will tell but I do feel the rhythms of the season and do respond to that call. We don’t need to produce a lot of maple syrup, but plus or minus 10 gallons in the cupboard keeps our friends and grandchildren smiling.

In the course of producing a batch of maple syrup there are many hurdles to jump along the way. After all the trials of reducing maple sap from 40 gallons to 1 gallon of syrup, it’s very satisfying to just “get it in the jar”. This weekend I was finishing off a sweet batch of syrup. It was on the stove, boiling down from 150 gallons to about 4 gallons while I was finishing up the sports page in the other room. In the background I heard a noise like a waterfall – what’s that? The syrups boiling over! I leaped and ran in panic to the kitchen– the syrup was flowing all over the electric stovetop! I pulled it off the burner but there was smoke everywhere, filling the kitchen. The room filled as I opened windows to 20 degrees of cold weather to try and clear the smoke and stop the wailing smoke alarm. Fortunately there was only a little syrup lost and a little damage done but we’ve had a sticky floor and counter for a couple days.

I know this has little to do with the wine and grapes on our Heron Hill Winery blog, but people do ask – “what do you do all winter?” The answer is, prune vines then make some maple syrup. It will be an interesting year…


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