Bridging Winter to Spring
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
We are nearing the end of the collecting and evaporating season, and about to transition to decanting, profiling, and bottling. It is a race against the asparagus, which will soon call Paul back to the fields. Force-placing him in front of an evaporator for bottling is thankless work--asparagus is a demanding mistress once she rears her spears above the soil.
As of this writing, Batch 32D is heading into the canner, with hundreds of gallons of sap still running into the collection tanks in the forest. While the syrups are developing more layers of complexity, they haven’t yet developed the acidity and exciting sparkle characteristic of the truly late batches. We know there exist hardcore late-season aficionados--you know who you are--and we’re not going to disappoint. The late season syrups are an integral part of our Whole Maple Syrup for Coffee, they also delight drizzled on a bit of chevre, roasted on your fall root vegetables, or as the secret ingredient in that pork loin glaze. It is also that je ne sais quoi in your special cocktail recipe.
The end of the syruping season must be near. Yesterday a strong warm front moved in and magically turned the lawn from khaki to emerald green. The ramps are now peeking up across the forest floor. The frost left the ground and the soils began to drain rather than churn into mud. It is a bittersweet transformation.
Syruping bridges winter to spring; it immerses us in the daily transformation of the days --the hours even--between winter skiing and asparagus season. In a good way, it is a push and pull. I hear the community lament for spring flowers while I secretly hope for another freezing night. I hear the peepers’ chorus start while fat, wet flakes of spring snow fall into the darkness, and I relish the intruding sound of a new season. I pace among the evaporators, checking levels and concentrations, and pause to see out the door a small cloud of newly hatched insects, flying through a sunbeam in synchrony like a school of fish. It is indeed a new season and the warm grip of spring is getting stronger as winter slips away.
Syrupmakers understand this bridge, and a sugaring friend related it as well to duck-hunting in the fall, sitting in the marshes watching the cattails bleach to a pale gold, the skies waning to a steely grey, the waters crusting with ice, and the migrating birds moving south in waves. To witness the world with such intimacy is a gift.
On this warm day, with whole maple syrup dripping into in the finish evaporator, tiny insects stretching their wings in the sunshine, and sweet steam swirling out of the sap house, I can report that Batch 32D has a lovely toffee flavor. That’s good enough and important enough for today.
Signing off from the sap house, with gratitude for every soul, every tree, every living creature we have the privilege of sharing this life with. Good bye, Winter! Hello, Spring!