sugar bushing

15 Apr

I have a friend. His name is Tommy. Tommy is one of those people that you find out something different and cool about him every time you talk to him. He is fascinating and one of the nicest people I know. Here’s a few things you should know about Tommy.

He has a Christmas Tree Farm that has been in his family since the 50’s.

He has trout ponds on his Farm where he raises trout.

He trains and on occasion races sled dogs.

He’s a reformed civil engineer. He is currently a process and manufacturing engineer.

He teaches fly fishing and guides trips along the river.

He’s in a relationship with my good friend Meghan. This works very well for me. It’s such a bonus when your best buds date really nice people, don’t ya think?

How cute are they?

One of the coolest things about Tommy is that he has  sugar maples on his farm which he taps for maple syrup. He also knows how I geek out over stuff like that so he invited Brette and I to come up for a visit/tour during maple syrup season.

I was SOOO excited! Tommy has been my maple syrup supplier since last summer. We go through it like crazy here especially with how much granola Brette eats.

I had no idea how much is involved to get actual syrup.

Let’s go looking for sugar bush!

First you have to tap the trees.

This is one type of tap.

A different type of tap

Once they are tapped, you have to empty your jugs/bags every day or so. This really depends on the weather. A cold night followed by a warm day will have them running pretty steady.

This takes concentration

Laughing while tapping is a must

Doesn’t it look like water? It pretty much tastes like it too.

Despite Brette’s very solid logic, squeezing the tree does not help the sap run faster.

After you haul it in from the woods, it goes through it’s first filtering. First, you have to let your dog take a dip in the trout pond. It’ll make her happy and your car stink. Not necessarily a win-win, but it was fun to see Lily get so excited.

Now you can get to the filtering.

Then the boiling starts. You have to have a slow trickle of sap going into the boiling mixture. Adding too much at once  would lower the temperature and kill the boil. You don’t want that.

As you add more sap, it gets filtered for a second time.

It’s important to keep the fire going.

It boils for a long time. It helps if it’s nice out and you can sit outside and shoot the shit with a pal and maybe have a beer or two.

While you’re waiting, it’s important to smell the sap. It kind of smells like kettle corn. It’s intoxicating.

It boils for a long long time. Once it boils down to a certain point, you move the process inside to finish it on the stove.

I don’t have photos of this part as we didn’t get to that point in the process in our quick trip out to the farm. I do know that you boil down the sap even further until it reaches 219 degrees F. That is when it becomes syrup. Anything over 219 degrees and you will have maple candy.

The syrup is canned in  sterilized jars and is ready to share with friends.

It takes that much sap to make a quart of syrup. Isn’t that crazy? No wonder it’s so expensive!

Brette showing off our take home syrup -which is from last season and as I sat down to write this, that jar is already gone. I’m telling you, we like our syrup. It’s one of the major food groups….candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Name that movie.

If you happen to be like us and have an abundant supply, here are a couple of recipes to try.

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Winter Granola

Brette likes to drizzle maple syrup on his yogurt and it’s also delicious on the classics like pancakes and waffles. YUM!

Here are  a few other fun shots from our trip to the farm.

The cleanest outhouse in Sherburne County

Tommy showing Brette proper form.

Lily is dying to take a taste of that sap.

Taking a breather

Love fest


11 Responses to “sugar bushing”

  1. Fav Sis April 16, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    This is right up there as one of my favorite posts so far! We were just up north at the in-laws. They too made maple syrup this year. They walked us through the process to share how it went. We came home with syrup. Fun stuff! I love the photo’s! Looks like an awesome day!

  2. Fav Sista April 16, 2010 at 10:16 am #


  3. NJ Kori April 16, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Yay for maple syrup! We get ours in upstate NY, in DH’s hometown. Maple syrup is also excellent on vanilla ice cream. Keep that in mind for warmer weather!

  4. sister in law April 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Nice post Jen. Glad to see you, Brette & Lily got to experience how labor intensive the good stuff really takes. (But then I guess it applies to most things in life.) Slow run in the Beaver Creek Reserve bush this year. But we have lots to get us through to serve at our annual French Toast Breakfast and school programs until the next season. (Of course the French toast is made with our secret recipe.)

    FYI, real maple syrup is a winner on vanilla ice cream too. Ali’s favorite.

  5. Megsp April 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    BEST POST EVER! What a perfect day that was:)

  6. Steff April 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Wow–that’s fascinating. I had no idea this was the process (here’s where I confess that I thought the syrup just sort of…dripped happily out of the tree, all pancake-ready).
    Really excellent photos, too!

    • jen April 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

      Steffanie – I always thought the same thing! That’s what I get for my city upbringing…even if it was just Mankato.

  7. Jackson April 19, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    What a fun day. Have you tried it on spaghetti yet?:) I will be trying the vinaigrette recipe. Thanks.


  1. farm party and the perfect potluck salad « She said. She said. - October 11, 2010

    […] the season and Meghan’s birthday (her sig fig Tommy has the farm). You might remember we went sugar bushing on this same farm.  It is just gorgeous there and this year’s party was an absolute […]

  2. a year in review « She said. She said. - December 30, 2010

    […] 2. Sugar Bushing! I have never appreciated maple syrup more now that I know what goes into making it. This is probably my favorite post of 2010. this takes concentration […]

  3. curried red lentil stew with swiss chard « She said. She said. - January 4, 2011

    […]  Lunch was back at Meghan’s and we were fortunate enough to have it prepared by Tommy. Remember him? He’s the awesome tree farmer/maple syrup maker/fly-fishermam/recovering engineer/most […]

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