Two Jim Thorpe neighbors have gotten themselves into some sticky situations recently… on purpose.
Guy Christman and Devon Paderewski are bottling maple syrup, made from locally collected maple tree sap. The two knocked on doors around the East side of Jim Thorpe, asking for permission to place a bucket and tapping system on maple trees. They ended up tapping dozens of trees in the area, collecting sap in five-gallon buckets.
The buckets have lids, and hoses run from a tap, or spile, that gets placed into a hole drilled into the trees. The lids prevent rain water from watering down the sap. How long the buckets stay on the tree depends on several factors, including, the type of maple, temperature, and how much direct sun the tree gets. The sap runs best when the temperature dips below freezing at night, but is above freezing during the day. Once the freezing temperatures cease, the sap gets cloudy, and causes the syrup to take on a bitter taste.
The sap is then collected and boils for hours to reduce the liquid into a syrup. On a recent Saturday, 100 gallons boiled in a custom made, 130-gallon stainless steel container that sits atop a cinder block fireplace in Christman's backyard.
After six hours the sap had reduced enough to be transferred to a five-gallon stock pot and moved to a propane cooker for a couple more hours.
Christman explained that the propane cooker is easier to control than the 130-gallon vat, and is easier to extinguish once the consistency they are looking for is reached.
In the end, the 100 gallons of sap yielded enough syrup to fill 30 12-ounce bottles.
"The formula we go by is that 30-40 gallons of sap will make one gallon of syrup after the boiling process." Paderewski said.
"I can go to the market and buy a bottle of maple syrup for $7.95, but I think by making it myself it costs about $23.50," Christman said with a laugh. "We are obviously not doing it for the money, It's just magical to see the raw material become syrup."
"It's just the fact that we can take readily available, free raw materials and make something usable out of it. I try to buy organic and natural whenever possible, but this takes it even a step further." Said Paderewski.
The two hope to boil off 600 gallons of sap this season, as well as eventually have a setup where people can drop off their buckets of sap and return later to pick up syrup.
Check out the photo gallery at http://www.tnonline.com/gallery/one-sweet-hobby-making-maple-syrup-scratch