Sap, Syrup, Sugar and the Little Happy Label Squirrel

You may have doubted my sincerity regarding an earlier assertion on my part that I would bottle up my “Squirrel Dew” product. Come on, you remember – that pre-syrup tonic drink made from the sap of the Red Maple. You’ll recall that I was getting all excited about tapping a maple tree after a long hiatus. I was feeling all nostalgic etc. and decided to market my “new” idea. O.K., if none of this rings a bell then you’ll just have to go back a few blog entries and play catch up (and discover why this idea was hardly a new one).

Anyway, by looking at the beginning photograph, you can see that I was serious. “Squirrel Dew – Nature’s Own Tonic” says the label (I thought of that by myself). Pictures don’t lie (with the possible exception of those old Soviet group photos where there is an air-brushed gap in the ranks). Shame on you for doubting me so, comrade.  My first bottle of product is now ready for the store shelves and if I say so myself – which is the only way this can be said given that I am myself – it looks and tastes pretty darned good.  Yes, I have a small supply problem but let’s not get all technical and business like here. Do you really want to put a damper on that optimistic little label squirrel? I think not.

Actually, I have to admit that I created the supply issue. I turned my remaining stock of “Squirrel Dew” into Syrup and Maple Candy. But, that is a tiny moot point in a big moot world.

It’s very good syrup. Making this stuff on the stovetop is deceptively easy, however. I literally simmered my pot ‘o “Squirrel Dew” until it reached a temperature of 219 degrees F.  That was it. When the liquid reached the magic syrup stage it began to froth up into bubbly amber foam, so I could have done this thing without the candy thermometer. I bottled the brew – about a half gallon in all – and felt warm all over while doing it.  But, I ended up producing only enough to feel all “homey” about it and not enough to get all “generous” about it. It was a limited run.  I mean, if this “Squirrel Dew” idea takes off then the “one man – one tree” syrup thing should do well also. Think of it. In the future this syrup will be made available in extremely limited supplies of, say, two regular half pint bottles and a Mason Jar. I can sell it for a few hundred dollars each along with a complementary pack of pancake batter. Quality not quantity is the issue here. Homemade vs. Big Production Sugar Bush.

When I turned a good measure of this rare syrup into maple candy, I further reduced my marketable stock. Again, the process was fairly simple. The syrup was simmered further until reaching a temperature of around 251 degrees F.  The only tricky part was making sure the stuff was constantly stirred and that the pan was sufficiently tipped to make sure the bulb of the candy thermometer remained immersed.  When the proper temperature was reached it was then a matter of pouring out the creamy mass before it started to crystallize. In the end I made a big handful of candy which I originally figured could have gone on the open (legal) market at about $300. I briefly considered funding the “Squirrel Dew” business with a few night trips to a few seedy joints in order to sell the stuff at black market prices.

Afterall, maple sugar, a.k.a. candy, is the traditional maple product originally produced by the Woodland Indians. Syrup and “Squirrel Dew” needs bottling and refrigeration at some point, but maple sugar has the potential to last for a very long time in un-refrigerated conditions. The natives packed this treasured product into birch bark Makuks for use throughout the rest of the year. They would toss some of the warm dollops of sugar out onto the snow or pour the rich brown slurry into duck beaks for the children to relish. My candy was poured into plastic molds and greased sheets, but the results were the same: Pure goodness straight from the trunk of a tree. Maple Candy is really what this whole thing is about. It is far better than any illegal product around. Unfortunately my maple candy didn’t last very long (this due to the fact that it tasted so doggoned good and not due to any preservation issues).

Now that my 2011 maple season is over, I need to make some choices. I have a few pints of priceless “one man – one tree” syrup left in the frig. I have three pieces of candy left…oops, no…make that two, one….  Alright, I do have a few pints of syrup left. Do I water this stuff down like a bootlegger and cut it into a gallon of “Squirrel Dew” or do I market it as “Uno Senior, Uno Arborvitae” Syrup or something like that?

Choices need to be made but I might just wait until next year and let this thing stew for a while. There’s a bright shiny future out there for the Little Happy Label Squirrel.

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