Maple Madness

Making your own maple syrup is very, very fun. But don't expect to turn a profit.

It’s March and, maybe you’re a little bored. Sure, you could do some spring cleaning — organize the garage or scrub the grout in your kitchen. But, really, those things are not fun at all.

What is fun — super fun — is making your own maple syrup. It’s the kind of project that leaves you feeling earthy and productive and like the kind of parents who don’t let their kids play the iPad all day.

  And best of all, when you pass out 2-ounces bottles of the syrup you MADE YOURSELF to your friends and family, you will have established yourself as the ultimate backyard-to-table eater. Anyone can grow tomatoes. That is not impressive.

  The thing is, you can’t pass out a whole lot of those 2-ounce bottles because, well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me just tell you how the whole maple syrup-making thing goes down. I know, because I did it last spring — with my husband Gary and our two school-aged children.

  First, we found some maple trees to tap — two in our backyard and two in grandpa’s backyard down the street. That’s the easy part as long as you can work a drill. Almost immediately, the sap began to drip which, despite a preponderance of common knowledge assuring us it would happen, somehow completely astonished me and the girls. Edible liquid from inside trees? The next morning, when we checked on the buckets, they were overflowing. This was the point at which we began to wonder what on earth we would ever do with all of our product. Eat pancakes in puddles of syrup every single morning? Let the girls man a roadside stand and sell it? Open an Etsy shop?

  Then the boiling began — on our gas cooktop in an enameled cast iron pot. We ultimately harvested about10 gallons of syrup and, after about 15 hours of boiling — ended up with six small glass jars of syrup. Obviously, we could not impress all of our friends and family by giving them their own bottles, so when they came to our house for dinner or to watch a game, we would cajole them into tasting a teaspoon full, and then tell them all about how we made it ourselves.

  If you have a gas well on your property and value your time at less than $4 an hour, this could definitely be a slightly profitable endeavor for you. If, like us, you just have an open weekend and a strong desire to get out of actual work, this is a wonderful idea. (An added bonus is that you really can’t cook all weekend because the kitchen is such a hot, sticky mess, so you get to order pizza. But be aware that you also can’t go out for dinner because you’ve got to keep that sap boiling.)

  We’ve depleted our syrup stash from last year, so our family is gearing up for another March maple weekend. Whether you want to make your own or pass on all the fun and just see how it’s done by someone else, check out “Sweet on Maple” on page 24.

  Either way, you’ll never pour syrup the same way again. At our house, we now use a spoon and slowly drizzle, trying to make the liquid gold last until the next spring.