Today marks the end of maple sugaring season here, at least for us. It probably actually ended a few days ago, but this is the first day to take really good stock of things after some long nights at work.
The recent warm streak of weather has been spoiling my sap in the buckets before I have a chance to boil it down (spoiled sap is marked by a cloudy or thready appearance and a sour or off smell). It’s also greatly slowed the collection rate, both because the higher temperature means the trees don’t flow as well and also because bacteria plugs the pores in the hole that allow sap to come out. Bugs have also become extremely prevalent to the point of there being dozens in some buckets. I continued to leave the buckets up anyway, seeing if the weather would change, but it hasn’t.
I noticed that my silver maple’s sap had taken on an off flavor for a while now, so I pulled the tap from that tree about a week ago. The tap hole has already dried up, greyed, and no longer drips. I went out today to check on the other buckets, and not only was the sap spoiled again, but was in very little quantity. The trees were still stubbornly dripping periodically from a few of their taps, but I sampled the sap and it was of low sweetness. Other taps seemed dried up. I examined the branches of the trees, and the buds on some of them are swelling or even breaking. This means it’s time to stop. Buddy sap is not used for production because it produces serious off flavors in the syrup.
This is not a disappointment. Even though the season has ended earlier than is normal, I also started much earlier, so the length of overall time was virtually identical if not slightly longer than usual.
I pulled all the spiles, stacked the buckets, and will be washing them out this evening. Then, they’ll be put in storage for next year.
EDIT: Unfiltered maple syrup is now available for sale, pick up on farm only. It is not formally graded, but there is a range of colors from light to medium-dark. It is sealed in glass mason jars and I recommend refrigeration for best quality. $16/qt., $10/pt., or if you have a same-size, modern-style mason jar to exchange, take a dollar off.