Friday, March 21, 2014

Boxelder Sugaring

Last winter, our building was plagued by bugs.  They look a bit like lightning bugs, oblong and red and black, only they don't glow.  They were EVERYWHERE. Internet research told me they were boxelder bugs, an insect that winters over in buildings (non-destructively, I might add,) and then eat and breed on the female boxelder.
My Internet research also told me that it was related to the maple tree, and that you could sugar it.  But why would you? Sugar maples give the most sugar, everyone knows.  Well I am a curious creature, so I set about to sugaring one of the boxelder trees behind our building.
The insects only breed on the female tree, and last fall Todd and I cut down most of the females behind the building,  There is a male not far from our back door that I decided to tap.
Here is my operation, a bit less elaborate than the Lohman's farm.  I tapped the tree low enough that it was just a little over a 5 gallon bucket.  I tapped it March 15 (as this winter has been brutally cold up until now, for those reading in the future.)  Today is the 21st, and with light snow falling I collected the 2 gallons of sap that accumulated over the last week.  I didn't take any pictures of the boil, it went pretty much the same as previous ones.  You can click on the 'maple sugar' label at the bottom of the post if you want to see those previous posts.

Here is the yield, after about 3 hours of boiling on the stove and finish work in the oven.  The color is lighter, though I cannot say if that is because a smaller volume was boiled down.  The flavor is at least very similar to maple sugar, though I haven't done a side by side comparison yet.  The yield was...drum roll please...8oz of dry sugar!  From 2 gallons of sap!  Sugar maples have produced around 2oz of sugar per gallon in our previous trials, and Karen noted that they had just yielded 29 fl oz from 10 gallons this year.  The bucket is out there collecting sap again. I hope to get another batch done to confirm these early - and promising - results.

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