St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Snow Day --Cooking Day

   A foot of new snow
bent the limbs low
After about 1 foot of snow last night, we plowed out here at the cabin and kept cooking sap on the last batch.   This morning we had about 250 and boiled off about 80 gallons today.  We took an afternoon break and headed for Menards to get a new digital cooking thermometer.  

This morning we finished 2 gallons.  It has set in a 5 gallon food pail for 5 days to settle. We dipped off two gallons above the sugar sand on the bottom, boiled for about it for about 30 minutes until it was 7 degrees above the boiling point of water--normally about 212 degrees + or - 1 or 2 degrees depending on the air pressure and the thermometer.   The thermometer is suspect because I had left it in the sap shed after the last batch and it had gotten steamed up in the humid environment and quit working.  I brought it in the house and hung it above the wood stove to dry it out and a day later, it started working--but registered boiling water at 207 F--meaning it was suspect.  

So I boiled the sap to 207 + 7 (214) and then poured it hot through the thick fiber filter and then brought it just to a boil and started bottling it.  After 3 bottles, Scott and I both decided it was too thin--and the thermometer must be wacky.   I put it back to boil and brought it to 216--boiling it for 20 minutes.  I didn't re-filter it, but just bottled it boiling hot.  

After it cooled, we compared the two bottles--one from the earlier "too thin" batch with the second extra boiled batch.  Side by side--bottle 1 was clear, bottle 2 had a fine floating cloudy look.  No idea why--but it wasn't at all what I had hoped for.  
Syrup --left is first try and is clear, right is second try and is cloudy.  Both are too thin from a bad thermometer, so will be returned to the big kettle with 2-dozen others, boiled, filtered, boiled and bottled with the hopes of having exactly 66.5 density and perfectly clear.   Note how light colored the syrup is--the first syrup of the year run while it is still cold is always light and delicately flavored.

After it cooled, I brought out the refractometer.  You put a single drop of cold syrup on the glass and then look through it like a telescope and read the syrup density.   Our second batch read 62 and it should have been 66.5 to be ideal.  Still too thin!  So with it being cloudy and thin, it all had to be put back in the big kettle, the bottles again cleaned and sterilized in boiling water and the syrup boiled, filtered again, and brought to a boil and bottled when the new thermometer said 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.  

Thus the trip to Menards to get a new thermometer as well as 3 more brand new food grade white pails to store syrup in (we have the rest on the trees and they have sap spile holes in the sides).   Scott's laptop was not charging so we also wanted to find a new charger-cord unit.    We got everything except the laptop charger cord--none were the right size.   He had to order it off the internet.

Brother Ev says that if one of the Swans in the pair on Orr Lake has a green neck collar--DNR tagging system--it is an old Swan, as they tag with light colored ones now that are more readable.  Scott got a photo of them and one does have a green tag.  Now I have to try to read the numbers on it.  

Trumpeter Swans on the Lake.  The green collar says "Sponsored by Menards."   Guess that is part of Gov Walker's commercialization policy for the DNR.  

Woodcock probing the snow for food--rather hunched up too probably trying to stay warm.  Full zoom 200 feet away.  I have a video of him too that I will put on youtube and add a link later