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Brett McLeod over the evaporator. Photo: Sarah Harris
Brett McLeod over the evaporator. Photo: Sarah Harris

Too cold? Too warm? Hitting the sweet spot for maple

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Continuing deep cold through the end of March had maple producers worrying if they'd have a season at all this year.

But remember two years ago, when it felt like we barely had a winter? Maple syrup producers struggled then, too, because it wasn't cold enough.

That year, Sarah Harris went to an usually warm Adirondack "boil" (click "listen" to hear the sounds of the boil.)

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

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My friend Brett MacLeod is a forestry professor at Paul Smith's College. He's also an excellent at hosting post-lucks. So when I got an email invitation to his annual sugaring party, I knew it'd be a good time.

It's a balmy Saturday in mid-march, freakishly warm. There's still a little snow at Brett's cabin, so we can at least pretend the weather's like it's supposed to be. Brett and his neighbors have tapped their maple trees and collected the sap. It's a lot of work for just a little syrup.

The party is fun. Everybody's here: our friends, Brett's colleagues, his neighbors, a bunch of kids. There's a huge spread of food. Everybody chats, eats, and wanders over to the evaporator to taste the sap as it boils.

I should add that the evaporator isn't the only toy in Brett's backyard. He used to be a professional lumberjack. Whenever anybody new visits, they have to try their hand at axe-throwing.

As afternoon turns into evening, the sap gets darker. It's at a rolling boil, and we're down to the last half inch. So armed a big pot, and a garden hose, we get to work, using water to push the sap into one half of the evaporator and making sure the pan doesn't burn. We open a valve and the rich dark sap comes pouring out.

And then we relocate inside, setting the sap – which is almost, but not quite syrup, to boil on the stove. We sit down. The sap boils, and we wait.

 

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