Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tree Taping Time

I think we are all starting to come out of our hibernation a little lately.  Even though there is a bit of snow on the ground the trees are starting to wake up.  This week, depending on the weather, we will be tapping a few of our maple trees.  We're waiting for the temperature changes to be just right.  Maple sap flows when daily highs are above freezing and nightly lows are below freezing consistently.

Last year we were able to freeze a bit of sap that we recently boiled down into syrup.  It took nearly 3 gallons of sap and about 5 hours to make 3/4 of a bottle of syrup.  

It was really an easy process. We simply filled a large pot with sap, put it on the stove, set up a fan to blow the moisture away from the cabinetry and let it boil.

The syrup is a little cloudy because we didn't bother to filter it.  It has a very rich and creamy maple flavor a bit like maple fudge with a slight chocolaty flavor in there somewhere. The results are wonderful and far better than I had expected.

More Meat

I always find it hard to post about hunting related topics.  There's so much stigma and political/cultural bias associated with it that I find myself picking my words carefully but here we go.

Last year we stocked the freezer with a bit of venison that comfortably held us through the end of summer.  Over the past year we've hardly bought more than a pound of beef for cooking at home, though we did buy poultry.

I took a doe early this season that was roughly the same size as last year's doe. I usually take my deer to a local butcher (Hershey's Farm Market) to prepare and package the meat and they do a great job.

I love supporting the few traditional businesses in our area. However, one of the big missing pieces in my experience has been butchering.  We've all seen the chart in the grocery store with the names used for different cuts of meat but there's a lot more to it than knowing the dotted lines on a picture.

An opportunity to learn presented itself during a day of hunting with my dad and my brother.  After three days, sunrise to sunset in the snow, my brother took a small buck.  A very small buck.  It's important to note that butcher shops usually charge a flat rate for their services. This means depending on the size of the deer the cost could be from $1.00/pound to $8.00/pound.  This deer was looking to be on the $8.00/pound side.

My brother offered us a deal, we could keep the meat if we butchered the deer and gave him the tenderloin. A few youtube videos and an email with Hank Shaw later we were sharpening our knives and rolling out the butcher paper.

We ended up with an additional 12 lbs of steaks and ground in the freezer. Did I mention the deer was really small?

The process wasn't nearly as tricky or as gross as you might think.  My hope is to follow this education into the various forms of charcuterie but I've got a long way to go.