Tapping on Tuesday

A maple with spile:
No tap at any saloon
gives forth such nectar.

It’s a tradition in my family to tap the maples and boil sap. Hauling buckets, cooking outside, doing it the old fashioned way. I remember going to my grandparents’ on the north shore of Mille Lacs as a kid, basking in the sweet steam from the pan and catching sweet drips straight from the tap into my mouth.

Maple syruping is a lot of work. My grandparents are still going strong, but at ages 92 and 88, it’s been a few years since they put out the taps. I’m eager to pick up the tradition again and carry it forward. This year I’m going small scale with just a half-dozen taps, will cook in a pot on a propane burner, and will be happy to produce a single cup of syrup. Next year, though, next year… next year I hope to use the family pan. At my grandparents’ is a sorghum pan the my great-grandfather purchased from a Montgomery Ward catalog for $11. Patched and polished, it still works, and it’s the part of the Hall syrup legacy.

Before then, there will be much work to do for next year, including building the firebrick infrastructure to support the pan, splitting wood into small pieces, and the rest of the labor that goes into this love. Until then, I will revel in cooking a tiny batch of syrup for satisfaction of the experience. The rest my annual supply I will have to source from my friends’ internationally awarded, commercially produced, locally made syrup at Fideldy’s Timbersweet.

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