|Our new tenant, the proverbial groundhog, established residency under the garden shed. We can see it bask in the sunshine, between the rainwater barrel and the wheelbarrow.|
The unforseen :
|Here's the look of the oven's top|
after about 6 hours of cooking on
medium to high temperatures
(and before any attempts of scrubbing).
First and foremost, for many years we boiled maple syrup on our old stove without any itch. It was a 60's oven, made to last.
With this new oven, a low end model in white enamel, it's just not the same. With only a few years under its belt, it's becoming harder and harder to clean the thing. Making those tiny droplets of caramelized syrup disappear requires a good scrub, something the oven doesn't appreciate. Indeed, the white enamel is not of good quality and tend to scratch easily. Dirt lodges in those scratches and is hard to dislodge.
I feel that we needed to speak of it on this blog, to warn readers. So how could we change our boiling technique to prevent this problem? There are a couple of alternative methods that I will present you further down this post, but the easiest solution is also the most obvious: use maple sap directly.
Ah! Divine maple juice!
What to do with all this sap? Drinking it, of course, is delicious. It's filled with loads of nutriments, floating in the sap. It can be kept a couple of days in the fridge. It nicely replaces your morning glass of juice and is very quenching. Small note: drink it in moderation to make sure it doesn't have an adverse effect on yourself. Some people have a tendancy to suffer diarrhea after drinking maple sap. As for me, no effect at all. Nope! I could drink this stuff all day long.
|I reused plastic juice bottles to freeze my sap. Note the ice is whiter at the top of the bottle; this isn't a light effect, it's the sugars and nutriments that have gone up while the water was freezing.|
The separation that occurs between the sugar and water contents during the freezing process brought some researchers from Laval University to work on a way (this article is in French) to produce maple syrup from maple sap by successive freezings, the idea being to take the frozen water out of the sap as it's forming, since that frozen water contains very little of the maple sugar needed to do the syrup.
Remember that only one tap from a tree can produce up to 40 liters of sap, during the good years of course. So, depending how much you can store in your freezer, you may be set for a good while.
Why not use maple sap in cooking?
So we can use maple sap like fruit juice. My husband and I drank about twenty liters already this year and gave some to friends and family. But it has many other tasty applications: added to drinks or as an ingredient in recipes, for example.
As for the syrup itself, my friend Carmen told me she saw on the internet a spring detox with maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. I searched and rapidly found this recipe. I haven't tried it myself, but I still point it out in case you are interested.
Regarding other ways to boil maple syrup, here are other solutions:
First off, if you aren't too much in a hurry, a wood stove is very good to slowly evaporate maple sap. We don't have one in our house, however.
An acquaintance of my sister said his parents used to put a big pot of maple sap to simmer for an entire night, before going to bed. The morning after, most of the evaporation was done with and they ended up with a thicker liquid ready to be boiled down to syrup. We used that method but only in daytime, while we can keep an eye on it, for safety reasons. It's efficient, not as hard on the appliance, less demanding from us since we don't feel obligated to stick around the pot at every moment and the heat being not as intense, it contributes to the heating of the house in a more uniform manner.
The second method we tried this year: the use of the BBQ or a portable cooker - both using propane gas. Someone lend us a portable cooking burner similar to this one. In good conditions, it's efficient but not at all economical. Furthermore, we had to place it in a sheltered spot because of the wind and the cold. In our experience, the maple syrup produced that way cost at least as much as the one sold at the grocery store.
The third method we haven't tried yet: In our garden shed, we have a wood stove. No chance this year: Our wood normally attributed to this stove was used for another project. We are used to collect free wood from our own yard - dead wood from the nice amount of trees we own - so buying a wood cord was out of the question.
The fourth method: building a rocket stove, a small outside stove that creates a lot of heat with a small amount of wood, mostly small branches and wood scraps. You can't burn a log in that kind of oven.
Finally, thank you Glenn, for your suggestion in a comment dating 21 april 2014 (link in French to our previous article about maple syrup). If I find one of these old crock pots from the 70s, I'll try it!
|Pure, filtered maple syrup.|