Each year, it’s a right of passage at HollyHedge to hunt for sugar maples around the property. The annual sugar maple harvest presages the coming of Spring, finally announcing that winter has come and gone – and the quiet hours of contemplation we’ve shared over the previous months will soon give way to excitement of the busy season at HollyHedge. This year’s winter was particularly bad – check out an interesting economic read out from the Motley Fool about just how bad it was – which made the maple syrup harvest that much more exciting this year.
We’ve written about maple syrup harvesting in the past on the HollyHedge blog, and have been doing it for nearly 4 years now. The exciting thing about it, is that each year we get different quality and grade of sap. As we waited for the thaw to come with anticipation, we scouted out a group of maples that we would tap. Part of our thinking is that we want to coexist with the flora on the property, so that means we don’t tap the same maples each year. We try to rotate so as not to stress any particular tree too much. This year, we tapped 7 trees on different parts of the property – some old, some younger – all sugar maples. In total, over the course of 10 days, we harvested nearly 80 gallons of really quality looking sap. The kitchen staff was none too pleased as we took up a large amount of the walk-in refrigerator with our raw sap before we cooked. It took us nearly 18 hours using industrial stove tops and a series of shallow, evaporation pans to cook the sap down to a golden syrup. After we finished cooking (here’s another interesting blog from Sap to Syrup up in Canada about their cook process and shenanigans), and strained the finished sap – we were able to bottle our biggest haul to date. The whole process gives you a huge amount of respect for all the folks up north who continue to use outdoor evaporation and cooking systems with wood-fire to get their syrup each year. We are super excited about the final output, and the chance it gave us to hang out and spend time with each other around the cook tops before the onslaught of the busy season here. It’s always a ton of fun to spend time with your family and friends to celebrate the bounty of any harvest – and it’s particularly special to be able to do so after a long, long winter.
With the new blog format and integration into the main HollyHedge.com website, we’re going to also post periodic updates on recipes we’re creating from the produce, preserves or syrup that we harvest from the property.