It’s possible that I exaggerated just a smidge in the last post.  We do have some concept of how to tap maple trees.  Well, I do, anyway.  I have done this before.  One year, when I was 13 or so, my father decided to tap some trees and try the syrup thing himself.  Given my age, I was enlisted as his helper.  And, again, given my age, I’m sure you can imagine how absolutely delighted I was to spend some quality time tromping through snowy woods with a parental unit while collecting tree snot.  I’m not sure I actually called it tree snot, but that certainly seems like something 13-year-old me would have said, so let’s go with it.

I’d love to give you a rundown on how much sap we gathered and how much syrup we boiled down and how our homemade maple syrup was a million, skillion, trillion times better than store bought maple syrup, but I really can’t.  Because I was 13 and 13-year-olds really don’t care about any of that.  So while my journal from those days is full of all sorts of exciting woes and loves and slights and plans, in many different and exciting pen colors, it is woefully vague on maple syrup notes.  However, I do remember one thing, and it’s exactly the sort of thing that you would expect a 13-year-old to remember.

You see, a key part of the syrup-making process is the boiling.  It takes a notoriously large number of gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  Sadly, I can’t remember how many. I’d look it up for you but I’m lazy.  A lot.  It takes a lot of sap.  Massive amounts of sap and massive amounts of boiling.  In traditional sugar houses they do this by building a gigantic, hot fire outside and using a wide, flat-bottomed pan to speed to boiling process along.

My father did not employ the giant fire/giant pan method.  I’m not sure why, really, as he was both a champion fire builder and someone who really enjoyed finagling things, so given those two facts I would certainly have expected a bonfire the size of Manhattan under a pan fashioned from an old oil pan.  But no.  He decided to boil the syrup in a plain, old, standard-sized stock pot on our plain, old, standard-sized stove which was inside our plain, old, standard-sized kitchen.

You don’t find many recommendations for boiling down maple syrup inside a house.  In fact, most discussion about boiling sap suggest very, very clearly that you should do this sort of thing outside.  There’s a reason for that.


Boiling gallons and gallons and gallons of sap down into syrup produces a truly frightening level of steam.  A fill-a-sauna level of steam.  A run-a-train-with-it level of steam.  Enough steam to clean the pores of every starlet in Los Angeles.  Enough steam to chug out open windows and make our house look like that cartoon guy who is really, really angry.

Except, of course, it was March in Maine so our windows weren’t open.  In fact, it was an old house with drafty windows so some of them were even covered in plastic.

Which explains why, on the night we started boiling down the sap, I was walking through our kitchen when I suddenly felt a drip.  And then another drip.  And then a whole shower of drips.  So I looked up.  And I noticed that our ceiling was looking rather…wet.  Because steam, when it cannot escape out doors or windows or some other proper ventilation system, goes up. And when it goes up, it collects.  It collected on our otherwise undistinguished beige ceiling tiles. And those otherwise undistinguished beige ceiling tiles dripped.  They dripped for days.  They dripped so much and so long that we learned that while they were really undistinguished, they weren’t actually, really, in truth, beige.

They were white.


Who would have thought?

13-year-old me certainly wouldn’t have thought that.  I’m still a little amazed by it, frankly.

And that’s pretty much all that I remember from my previous experience of boiling down maple syrup.

This time around, we aren’t exactly sure how we will boil down our syrup.  But we definitely will not be doing it inside.

There are some things about my house that I don’t really need to know.

The things that are beige in this house are just going to have to stay beige.