There is this general assumption that if you don’t have the right tools, you cannot possibly do x, y or z. This is complete nonsense.
All my years of cobbled-together DIY projects have taught me two important things. The first is that I probably already have the tool at hand to do the job. And two, if I seriously want to increase production, that tool at hand might not suffice. The lesson I have thus learned is “try it once, and if it mostly works and you like the result, then prepare to shell out some cash for next time.”
Home cheesemaking is the most readily available example of this lesson. To make, press, age and store the cheese, I get by with items I already have in the house. This remains the case today with one important exception: I bought a cheese press. What a difference. I also let the goats buy me a cheese press, as in, I made enough money off the sale of their cheese to enable (justify?) the purchase of said press.
So, onward, maple-syrup making. If you drive around country roads now in my corner of the world, you will see all manner of tree-tapping techniques and implements. You’ll see the bases of maples cluttered with traditional sap pails, simple plastic gallon-sized buckets, our own sap-collecting bags, or a web of food-grade tubing piped from spiles to an awaiting 5-gallon bucket on the ground. I’ve even seen half-gallon Mason jars wired to the trees. The only unusual tool in this whole operation are the spiles themselves: at $1.50-$4.00 each, they’re a fairly small investment.
If you want to give it a go at your own house, you need only buy the spiles. You probably already have a stock pot and a roasting pan…and you can even skip the roasting pan if you watch the pot closely.
We use my stainless steel milk strainer and high-temperature filter to strain the syrup. A few layers of cheesecloth or a thin cotton towel, draped in and rubber-banded to the jar’s neck would also have worked. Just pour very slowly!
So the next time you want to try something new at your own house, ask yourself this important question. Is the thing you wish to attempt an OLD thing? As in, what would your great-grandparents have done if they also wished to make it? Cheesemaking, breadmaking, gardening, charcuterie, maple sugaring: These things all predate fancy presses, bread machines, gas-powered tillers and aerated compost tea, pink salt and even our sap bags. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
So have a go!