Despite the grim look, I really had a ball boiling down our first gathering of maple sap for 2016. We had collected about 8.5 gallons in the day and half after first tapping our trees. We have 6 maple trees on our lot in the small town we live in. I guess we truly fit the “backyard” description that one sees so much on the internet. On those six trees we have a total of 9 taps. Two of the trees are massive (one measuring over 13′ around). Here’s how today unfolded:
(First of all, I realized quickly that I had to remove the lid from my 55 quart pot. It quickly came up to boil, but I soon discovered that if I wanted the steam to roll effectively I had better remove the lid. I guess all of this proves that you never stop learning).
I gathered up my cut off 2×4’s (pine) and split some of the Ash wood pieces I had from the truckload of firewood delivered several weeks ago. My “evaporator” set up is just some concrete blocks and rebar to support my pot. I left an opening for access to stoke the fire, and a gap in the back to allow for draft.
I filled the large pot about halfway with maple sap and added to it as it boiled down by half. I started the fire around 7:30a and found myself wrapping up the boiling outside by 11:45a. As the sap boiled down and I neared the time when I needed to begin “finishing” the syrup, I found that I was a bit more worried about what I was doing. Having a perfectionist mindset isn’t for the faint of heart when attempting new endeavors.
As luck would have it, my good friend, Andy LeCount (whose maple operation inspired me to try it on my own), stopped by on his lunch hour to see how I was doing. I was very near the end of the outside production and decided while he was there to pull my sap from the fire. It was turning a deeper brown and had boiled down to where I could fit it in a pot I had planned to use for finishing in the kitchen.
When he had returned to work, I started prepping in the kitchen. I calibrated my thermometer to ensure that I had an accurate read for boiling. After calibrating, I fired up the stovetop and started to finish the sap. Temperature for our area for boiling registered just over 210* on my thermometer. After adding 7.5 degrees for proper syrup production, I settled on just over 218* as the temp for finishing our syrup.
When the syrup hit the desired temperature, I pulled it from the heat. Pouring it through some cheesecloth, I filtered the little bit of sandy sediment from the syrup, and filled my containers. I used two quart jars and estimate that I have about 40 ounces of finished syrup. I found, after cooling, that the syrup was a bit more runny than I had imagined it would be. However, the taste was amazing! I believe that the syrup has a tiny taste of wood smoke as well. (At least that was our general consensus at dinner when we all sampled it).
Here’s the final product:
Please feel free to comment below and provide tips, hints, advice, point out errors, or other helpful information in the maple syrup production process. I am new at this and am eager to learn from others!
Postscript: Today was not without incident. I had purchased a quart sized bottle at Goodwill. It had a log cabin design and I found that a cork from one of my favorite wines, (French Lick Winery), fit it perfectly. When I started pouring the syrup into a funnel to fill this special (25 cent) jar, I noticed the sediment. I immediately stopped and dumped the syrup back in the pot. Without thinking, I took the jar and stuck it under the water flowing from the tap. It immediately cracked! I was really bummed that it no longer would be able to be used to hold syrup. Overall the day was a success though!