Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boxelder Syrup (getting ready for the run)

Yes, you read that right Boxelder Syrup. The Boxelder tree has always been considered a "junk" tree in my book. They grow like weeds, have weak wood, and in general are just undesireable to have around. However, I have grown to appreciate them since we started learning how to make maple syrup. A little known fact is that the Boxelder tree is part of the maple family, and can be tapped in the same way for making syrup. Since we have no maple trees on our property (except for those I've planted for my grandchildren) this was welcome news for us. We've found the taste to be a little different, but still very good, and very sweet.

Since we moved out to the farm, most years we have tapped our Boxelder trees and made syrup. Last year in particular, we were very ambitious and made about seven gallons of syrup. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, that means collecting and boiling down over 280 gallons of sap. Approximately 40 gallons of sap produces one gallon of syrup.

This year we are planning to expand the operation, and see if we can produce some extra syrup to sell to our customers: so the preparation has begun.

A couple of weeks ago, we cut down a number of dead elm trees and ended up with about a cord of firewood to run the boiler. This was took most of a Saturday, to get it hauled to the house and stacked up where we boil the sap.

This year I decided to upgrade our operation, so I bought 100 used taps off of e-bay. However, in past years we have used homemade wooden taps. These are easy to make, but can be time consuming if you want to tap a lot of trees. We make them out of sumac branches. (You have to be careful to use the red-berried type, not poison sumac.) Find some straight branches off a live bush that are about one inch in diameter and cut pieces about 5 inches long. Drill out the soft center with a 1/4 inch spade bit. Then whittle one end down to a half inch in diameter, making sure to have a nice gentle taper.

To tap our trees this year, I got a bit more high-tech too, in that I hauled our generator around in back of our ATV trailer, and used a corded drill (translated: more power) to drill tap holes the trees, instead of a wimpy cordless. (I'm not so old-fashioned that I use a bit-and-brace.) We did this last Thursday, thinking that the warm weather would be the begin of the sap run, but alas we went back into the icebox on Saturday.

So, we are waiting for the warm weather....


the W. family said...

Hello Housmans!
I thought I would comment and let you all know that I have been enjoying your blog! It is fun to read about what you have been doing in the house and out of doors. We have friends in VT who boil down Maple sap each year. Maple syrup reminds me of Vermont, it is a common thing there! I don't think I have ever tried Boxelder syrup.


Mindy said...

Thanks for the commment! Glad you are enjoying the blog!
Boxelder syrup does taste different than Maple syrup, but most people really like it.

nick said...

Thanks for the post. Great to see how you are doing your setup. We are tapping trees for the first time and only have boxelder also. We are using 1/4" galvanized pipe for the taps. I am excited to taste it. However, I do think that using a brace is far superior to all the trouble of bringing electricity out to the trees.

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