Back in Ritchie County we made Maple Syrup from the trees up on the hill but we didn’t use just Sugar Maples, we tried lots of different kinds of trees. They all have sap that runs in the Spring and the sap is all sweet, it’s just that Sugar Maples are the sweetest. Since we had free gas back then to cook it down with it did not cost us anything but time and we had lots of that. The best time for collecting the sap is late February into March when the nights are down to 20 degrees and the days go way up above freezing. This year it has been pretty cold and things are starting slow.
We made our taps from elderberry and sumac pieces. Since they both have pithy centers all we had to do was run a hot nail through them and whittle them to fit in our drill holes and a notch on the top for hanging a jug. We used an old brace and bit, hand cranked, that we got at a farm auction to drill the holes in the trees. You will need to drill a hole in the tree about 2 1/2 inches with a drill bit a touch smaller than the size of your taps . We started out by hanging plastic milk jugs, free from the neighbors, on each tap and then we emptied them each day. When that got old we set up plastic pipes running down to a collection bucket, which was easier. It takes about 3 gallons of fresh sap to boil into one pint of syrup. If you have your wood stove going anyway you can boil it down one 3 gallon enameled canning bucket at a time and it won’t cost you. Then seal it into clean jars. Once you open a jar it can get mold on it if you don’t refrigerate it so pint or quart jars are good and will fit in the fridge.
Bucket on a Tree
- If you aren’t ready to make your own syrup yet, now is the time to head on down towards Monterrey Virginia (and other places) for their Maple Syrup Festival. The tiny village can get pretty crowded but it is a fun way to spend the day. Check them out here: http://www.highlandcounty.org/maplefestival.html We went down last weekend and stopped at three different sugaring places but our favorite is Eagle Camp on Jack Mountain and you can get there and avoid town if you want to. Take I-81 South to Harrisonburg, Va and get on Route 33 West to Brandywine, WV, turn left towards Sugar Grove and continue on to Moyers, WV. Stay straight on Doe Hill Road about 9 miles to Doe Hill and turn Right onto 624 for 2 miles- Eagle Camp is the first Right on Jack Mt Road. About 51 miles from Harrison burg. They do sugaring the old fashioned, wood fired way (no website) and they are really nice folks who enjoy explaining it all. Maple syrup runs $60.00 a gallon for any grade. We like the dark. Check out this site for some more good info http://www.tapmytrees.com/taptree.html
-Wendy lee Maddox, http://www.edgewisewoods.com