Sweetening the Pan
Finally, the low pressure that has persisted for more than a week has moved off the Maine coast. A clear, calm night brought an overnight low of 15 degrees and a forecast high in the upper 40’s. Perfect!
With the promise of blue skies, I went out to start the fire in the evaporator at 7 am, expecting our first really good sap run of the season.
The weather didn’t disappoint. Nothing but sun and a high that eventually topped out at 50 degrees. (The shot above was taken at about noon.) We had collected about 25 gallons of sap over the past week – enough to get started on the day’s boil while waiting for the trees to warm up and deliver more.
Marion split wood and fed the fire once I started getting excited about the photo opportunities. (Ooh, there I am, reflected in the pan.)
When we first started sugaring years ago we’d find ourselves disappointed at the end of the first boil or two. We hadn’t caught on to the idea of sweetening the pan. We wanted syrup at the end of those first boils, but we’ve since learned to be patient, knowing that by the second or third boil the sugar will flow.
When the evaporator pan is filled for the first time at the beginning of the season, it’s just sap, straight from the trees. As that first boil progresses, however, the sugar in the pan begins to concentrate and the pan “sweetens.” It usually takes all the sap from the first or second run to sweeten the pan to the point where syrup can be drawn off. By the end of today, the right side of the pan (the side opposite where the sap enters) began taking on the characteristic amber color of finished maple syrup. The pan is now sweet. As we boil again tomorrow we’ll begin drawing off.
No pressure today. Just enjoy the sunshine, watch Marion stoke the fire, and, yes, those are dilly beans I’m having for lunch. I thought they might be nice if I soaked them in a little gin.
Spring? It’s still a couple of weeks away, but, save for the snow on the ground, there was little remaining of winter in the air today.