Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Warming the House on a Cold Day, and Maple Syrup

The temperature never reached 32 today. Tonight will be even colder than last night, with the expected lows in the single digits. For my northern and western readers this is probably nothing new but this has been an unusually warm winter here and this coming week will be the coldest weather we've had this year--and if I think about it, probably last year too.




Before we went to town yesterday we checked on our lettuce bed. It was still green and good to eat, but we knew the cold was coming so picked what was left of the lettuce, and a good thing too because it froze solid last night. We've never had lettuce this late (or early) in the year so I'm not too unhappy about its demise--and I still hope that it might come back from the roots later when the weather warms.

Last night's wind made the night feel even colder, and kept the stoves going to keep us comfortable. Today I decided to help warm up the house by canning.

Even in winter, it's possible to put up food. I had bought a big bag of pinto beans at the store, so those went into the cookpot. I had also had Larry bring down the remainder of the frozen cider.

Freezing cider is a quick and easy way to process it in the fall when we're so busy and the weather is still warm. I prefer it canned, however because it's easier to use, and I don't have to worry about losing it if the electricity goes off.

So that was today's project. I ended up with 13 quarts of cider and 7 quarts of beans. And a warm and toasty house. Free gas makes canning my own beans feasible but I am not sure it would be a saving if I had to pay for the utilities to do it.

Here is what I love about my 1950 model Tappan Deluxe range: I can easily fit two big canners on it, and in a pinch, even three. What modern stove can handle pots of that size and weight except the ones built for commercial kitchens?


A conversation on the Storytell listserve the other day made me think about my early days on this farm, and my first winter here when I decided to tap the maple trees. Here is a copy of the story I posted about that:


I remember my early years on this farm when I wanted to try making maple syrup (this would have been 1976-1977-1978). We had some maples around us, not many, but I thought I might be able to get enough sap to make a little syrup. I had read that red maples and other kinds could also be tapped, so I decided to try them too--25 trees in all. I used an old auger to drill the trees, and cut elderberry branches and removed the soft pith in the center to make my spiles. Every day I hiked up and down steep snow-covered hills collecting my sap, and I cooked it down on my wood cook stove. 

In the end, for all my efforts I got about a pint, and it wasn't very good. I think I started too late, and the sap from the other maples just didn't have the sugar of the sugar maple.I tried for ywo years before giving it up as a bad idea. It is still a good memory, though. Those hours in the woods alone, watching the animals and birds, and seeing the slow coming of spring remain as one of the best times in my life. Maybe not the sweetest syrup, but a very sweet memory.


Here is a photo a friend posted on Facebook of my house when we first moved here. This must have been taken the winter of 1977-1978 (thanks, Laurel!). 


And yet a little more on the topic of maple syrup:


There is a strange tale I sometimes tell that I found in a 1906 history book of my county, about some young people who were at a sugar camp when they were caught by a sudden storm. The creek came up so quickly that by the time they reached it, it was impassable. Two sisters grabbed switches from a nearby willow, whispered something to the sticks, and the sticks turned into a large white horse, big enough to carry all 4 of the young people across the creek--where the horse promptly turned back into willow switches.

Has to be true--it was in a history book.


Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

7 comments:

A Primitive Homestead said...

Your home in the woods has a story book look. The woods is a special place to just wonder & think watching critters. I think it's great your syrup making. So much work for so little syrup. Thanks for your visits. Blessings!Lara

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Today's post has lots of surprised. Esp the horse story at the end. How fun.
I didn't know you could can cider. Ummm interesting. And the pinto beans too. You must have several huge crock pots for that many beans.
I've used the crock pot for them and it's a good tool to use.
Great lettuce story. Glad to hear you had lettuce this late. Never heard that before.
So enjoyed reading this. Blessings for your sharing heart. Barb

warren said...

I made a lot of maple syrup when I was a kid and I had debated doing it again on the ridge. All the trees are down hill though which means all the sap would need to be carried up That makes it slightly less interesting!

Granny Sue said...

Lara, sometimes I think we lived a storybook life in those first years--certainly idealistic and in many ways unrealistic, but such memories! We survived somehow :)

I will continue to visit you and see how you are getting on. One step at a time. Sending hugs, my friend.

Granny Sue said...

Barbara, it probably makes it more like apple juice after it's canned, but I like it just as well. We also like to mix the cider with the grape juice I made last summer--talk about delicious!

That horse story is strange, and there were other equally odd stories along with that one. In a history book yet. Don't you love it?

Granny Sue said...

Well, Warren, there's always a horse...or a four wheeler instead of a four-legger. I carried mine uphill, but not as far as you'd have to--and I was only 25 or so at the time :)

Rowan said...

Your time spent collecting sap from the maples sounds idyllic even if the resulting syrup wasn't that great. I love the horse story:)

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