St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bottling Syrup

On a snowy cold morning I look on the porch and see 17 gallons of maple syrup sitting in 5 plastic pails waiting to be finished.  

Finishing, for us, is an indoor step.  We cook the syrup to about 5 or 6 degrees above the boiling point of water (variable day to day with air pressure), take it off the big evaporator pan and store it in 5 gallon plastic buckets where sediments created in the cooking process gradually settle to the bottom. 

Boiling syrup has its own texture, fragrance and peril.  Turn away and it rises immediately and overflows the canner, filling the stove burner openings with thick sweet sticky syrup, and leaving the cook with an hour of stove cleaning!

Filtering it immediately, as we used to do, is very difficult, as the filters clog up with a gallon or two of syrup, and we try to do 5-7 gallons batches.  Learning some new tricks over the years, we have moved to a week of settling before pouring off the top of each bucket leaving the minerals and other sediment in the bottom,  reboiling to exactly 7 degrees above water boiling (indicates 66.5% Brix -- sugar concentration in the syrup--the pure maple syrup density), then filtering, bringing back to a boil and bottling under sterile conditions.  This way the syrup filters rapidly and easily and we get sparkling clear syrup.  

The settling is done, and now the cooking has begun with 4 gallons processed yesterday morning before heading off to the Polk County Genealogical Society afternoon meeting at the Luck Museum.   As a convert to Genealogy back in the mid 1990s, I go to services every Monday afternoon 1-4 pm volunteering to preach the word to drop in visitors at the museum.  Every 4th Monday we have a group meeting to reexamine our faith, encourage others, and to spread the Word.     My own goals in Genealogy were somewhat
more prosaic, hoping to have discovered relatives all around the USA and even in other countries, and to cultivate them to the extent they would offer us free room and board on vacations to their area.   I have been successful!

Today and tomorrow, Scott, who is staying at the lake cabin, and I should be able to process the rest of the syrup and store it in bottles.  We bought 16 gallon jugs from Anderson Maple of rural Cumberland, to store the bulk of the syrup this year rather than immediately bottling into the small 8,12 and 16 ounce bottles we normally do.  It is faster, and gives the syrup time to settle even more after our processing, something that occasionally does happen even with settling and hot filtering.  

Within the week we should have the syruping season completed until the fall Ramble sales in late September.  It appears the Eureka farmers market is not going to run this year, so we probably will not sell any other times.  

The apple trees we planted need staking to hold them upright so that is next on the list.  We are debating selling our Pine Island home and moving totally to Wisconsin, so that means clearing that home of the accumulated junk (collections?) and spiffing it up a little to attract buyers.  Probably another year before we get that done.  

Margo may be in West Bend helping her dad recover from his stroke for much of the summer--not certain what level of independence he will reach.  She spends 5 hours a day at the rehab center working with the therapists in getting him walking and trying for recovery.  He turns 89 in May.  She says he has improved and continues to function better with walking, getting in and out of bed and chairs, and so on.  One difficulty is his left side vision has disappeared--the brain doesn't handle signals on that side.  He has had to try to learn to turn his head to the left or what is on that side is really non-existent to his mind.  Difficult as the stroke also has diminished his thinking slightly--sometimes in the afternoon Margo says it is more noticeable.  Overall he is improving, and as long as that continues, she feels she is being a good daughter in helping out.
Margo started geraniums and petunias a month or two ago. They continue to thrive under my "water when they droop" maintenance plan, and soon will be ready for the annual decoration day tour of the family graves.  We have about 20 flower pots on relatives in NW Wisconsin extending to MN and on the week before Memorial Day, take the day off to tour the graves and pot new flowers.  All of those ancestors, working their whole lives just to produce me surely deserves some recognition!

Of course, with her gone, I am slowly reverting to a somewhat lower level of diet, housekeeping etc.  Civilization is just a thin veneer that is quickly lost without reminders that sheets do get dirty and life can be more than paper cups and plates with cooking done by toaster and popcorn popper ;-)

Helping out a fellow Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writer member by scanning in his manuscript, running optical character recognition, and reformatting to book form.  His computer crashed and he lost all but a printed copy.  To get it back into the computer you have to scan and turn the picture of the page of text into actual editable text, and computer software can do that.  You still have to scan each page, somewhat slow, but a good activity to do while doing something else.   Hope to have it ready by a week from Friday when we have our next meeting at Grantsburg, where the writers assignment is to write 500 words or less on "completed," a word chosen at random.    My take on it might be death, the final completer.