It is almost surreal. A storm is coming today. With timing and dates, this looks like to be the big storm before the sugaring season starts. Oh it won't begin this weekend or next, but in the next few weeks, under the covers of a thick blanket of snow.
What is also unbelievable is we have close to two quarts of maple syrup left from last year. One is very dark, probably from the last boil. Always savored and held on to for the final waffles. And the other is a story, that goes something like this.
After the finishing step (i.e. bringing the syrup up to temperature) we can it in mason jars. As the liquid cools maple sand, salts from the sap, precipitate out of the syrup and settle to the bottom of the jars. Big, more than 15 taps scattered among the neighborhood trees, sugaring operations have a filtering system to separate the syrup from the sand. We use time. For over time the sand falls out of solution allowing us to decant the clear beautiful syrup into other containers. Simple.
In years past when I did the decanting I would discard the sand and the little bit of syrup I couldn't get out of the jar. Last year, being a person who hates to waste anything, I saved all the sand and the residual syrup into one jar, then stuck that jar in the back of a cabinet. It was three quarter full of sand topped with a thin layer of cloudy syrup. Now fast forward 7 months and I am rooting around in the cabinets for a cake pan and what do I find, but a jar of medium amber maple syrup with about an inch of solid packed sand on the bottom.
It took me a while to remember last season's experiment, but there we had it. Our conclusion was two fold. One, there is a lot of maple syrup in the sand. Don't throw it out. And two, it is the finest maple syrup we have ever produce.
Maple syrup, like wine, pulls its flavor from its surroundings. It can taste peppery, buttery, spicey like cloves. This collection of the dregs has such a fine complex flavor that I truly can't put my finger on it. All I know is we love it, and will never toss out the sand again.