Monday, March 11, 2013

The Inadvertent Ally

I started maple syrup making this year, just because I have always wanted to. I knew real maple syrup was healthy for you.. but I didn’t know just how health it was…Wake Up World website recently published an article entitled, “Enjoy the Surprisingly Sweet Health Benefits of Maple Syrup”.  Amongst the benefits listed are:
“… maple syrup is nutrient rich in thiamine, manganese, and zinc. Adequate thiamine (B1) is essential for proper cardiac function, prevention of cataracts, and Alzheimer’s disease. Thiamine also reduces the effects of aging and encourages proper digestion. Manganese is linked to energy production, proper thyroid function, sex hormones, balancing blood sugar levels, and the absorption of calcium. Manganese is also a strong antioxidant, protecting against free radicals in the body. One ounce of pure maple syrup provides 46 percent of the daily value of this essential mineral. Zinc helps protect the heart, controls diabetes, aids in wound healing, and helps to alleviate the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Both manganese and zinc are powerful immune response boosters.”
How exciting about the indications for helping with cancer and preventing diabetes.
“As seen in the Journal of Medicinal Food, maple syrup has been shown to prevent diabetes and is a potent ally in slowing cancerous cell growth. Maple syrup has high levels of phytohormone and abscisic acid. These compounds encourage the release of insulin and improve the insulin sensitivity of fat cells which helps to combat metabolic disorders such as diabetes. A study at the University du Quebec a Chicoutimi revealed that maple syrup may be more effective against brain, prostate, and lung cancer than broccoli, blueberries, carrots, and tomatoes. Laboratory research shows that, due to its concentrated form, maple syrup is more potent than maple sap with pure dark syrup noted as best. “
In an article from Science Daily, I read this..
“"We know that anti-oxidants are present in the leaves, bark and twigs of the maple tree, so looking at the sap make sense."”
Which really spoke to me and a light bulb went off.. whether  I intended it or not.. I have a new ally this year! Maple Tree! I have used maple syrup for herbal extractions before, and of course, cooked with and enjoyed on pancakes, but I have plans for really expanding my use of it this year and will enjoy sharing recipes and other things with you.

Now, in regards to this first year of sugarin’, I have learned a few things, the hard way of course!

First, do use a piece of felted wool to strain your hot syrup. I tried just straining with a jelly bag and ended up with what is called sugar sand in the bottom of my jars. The only felted wool I could located locally was for craft projects, so I just choose the one with the lightest color and washed it out repeatedly with water, (no soap), to make sure no dye would bleed out of it.
GEDC9067 Just wash the felt out with hot water and line dry between strain sessions. I have a little clothesline type of deal above my sink at all times. Handy for many things, including drying the pages of my glued stillroom book :^)
GEDC9068 The accumulation at the bottom of this jar is sugar sand.

I also learned it is beneficial to have an alternate heating source to keep things going quickly, or in case you can’t be outside, due to the weather. This handy cast iron propane cooker was moved in the garage this past rainy weekend. I have sometimes used it in conjunction with the wood stove when I had a lot of sap to get cooked quickly.


I learned if you don’t have a dedicated building for maple syrup making, you still need to provide wind blocks to keep the heat up in your wood burner and to keep the flame going on the propane cooker. Thus the sheet of plywood in the photo on the other side of the wood stove.

I also learned it is  RULE never to try to cook the sap in the house, except maybe right at the end before bottling. Yup, got cocky one pretty day when some windows were opened and thought to hurry things along with an extra pot on the stove. Even with stove overhead fan sucking the moisture and windows open for it to escape, I had a dripping bathroom ceiling AND the most disgusting occurrence in the living room… my daughter came in the house, steam billowing out the door as she entered, and she pointed at the walls right above my baseboard and asked, “Is that mold?!?” Yikes! Luckily not, but, my walls are textured plaster in that room and thus, are hard to keep perfectly clean.. well they are clean now… the moisture washed the dust from the crevices of the texturing and it must have all gathered at the bottom on the wall… emergency cleaning session ensued…
See not everything is always perfect here at Comfrey Cottages!  I want to share the good, the bad and the ugly and not prop myself up as some Domestic Diva, thus my share about that little faux pax…;^) So never, ever get cocky and try to cook the sap inside.. you are warned graphically… although I will save you from a picture of that mess…

I almost forgot this one and had to come edit the post... if you are going to store your sap, until you have enough sap gathered or the time to cook, either keep it in the refrigerator, (if you have space), or keep it outside in a cold spot, like the shade, or a snow bank. It will go bad at room temperature in the house within a few days.. I had 3 five gallon buckets in my kitchen, thinking I was going to be able to cook it, and one thing after another happened and I didn't have time to. Within 4 days, at room temperature in the kitchen, it developed a bit of a yeasty smell. I went ahead and cooked some down, but the taste was off... Keep your sap cool by all means. I had to pour that soured sap onto the tree roots, feeding it back to them.
 I have enjoyed watching our squirrels going out to the very ends of the maple trees to eat the new leaf buds forming, and to nibble the delicate new branches. See the teeth mark in this photo?
New little buds are on all the branches. I will affix one of these in my stillroom book for my section on my newest ally, Maple.
Remember the bit above about antioxidants being present in the twigs and buds? I am guessing that not only are these are tasty morsels for the squirrels, but also like a spring tonic for them after their long winter! I chewed up one of the buds myself. It didn’t taste bad at all.. :^)
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Sherri B. said...

So very interesting to learn of all of the benefits that Maple syrup offer. You had me laughing about when you got a bit cocky. I'm sure it was not funny when you had to clean it all up though.

Thanks for sharing with us. xo

Anke said...

Lots of good information Leslie! I knew I liked Maple syrup, but I had no idea about all the health benefits! Very good to know.

Comfrey Cottages said...

It was pretty funny, Sherri Hey, at least the walls are good and clean now!! lol! Thanks for visiting xoxox

I didn't know either, Anke. Thanks for visiting xoxoxo

Rita M said...

What an interesting post Leslie, but a lot off work.

Comfrey Cottages said...

Yes sis, it is a lot of work! xxxx

wildcraft diva said...

Wow!! I definitely wouldn't have the courage to try, even if I did have a maple tree. Love reading about it though! Will be "sticking" to local honey and golden syrup(not very healthy, but essential for flapjack) from the UK. Well done Leslie :)

Sarah Head said...

Fascinating post, Leslie. I'd never have thought about the consequences of trying to cook the sap indoors - I'd always presumed people cooked outside because the trees were a long way from their dwellings! I look forward to learning more about your ally as the year progresses. I watched a pigeon trying to eat the hawthorn buds during a snow storm yesterday afternoon and it's the horsechestnut leaf buds the squirrels go after here.

Comfrey Cottages said...

Thank you WD and Sarah. Since it takes between 35 and 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, that's a lot of moisture that has to evaporate, thus, the wall fiasco. How lovely to watch that pigeon, Sarah. Interesting it is the horsechestnut there xx

Marcie said...

I'm so glad to read this post. I wanted to make maple syrup this year, but just didn't pull things together quickly enough and sap is already running. I am going to think ahead for next year, and your post gives me a lot of good information. Thank you!

Comfrey Cottages said...

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting, Aisling! I am glad the post could provide you with good info for when you too start making syrup xx

Zara said...

Very nicce post