Learning From the Past

March 11, 2018 – After another warm week of temps in the upper thirties during the day, I was starting to get double the sap from previous weeks. This week I had gotten about 25 gallons, all in one gallon milk jugs. I now had all 10 taps in three different trees (thankfully, it seems as though I didn’t kill two of the trees by over tapping them). The biggest producer of sap, the maple on the south side of our house, was just warming up. I never thought these trees could produce that much sap.

IMG_5221

As you can see here, I was starting to learn from my past mistakes. Sap boiling is all about surface area, so I went to a restaurant supply center in Roseville and purchased two huge buffet pans that would sit right on the fire. My previous two pots, which was my entire operation and led to nine hours of syrup making for 12 gallons of sap, were now my warming pots since they were not receiving direct heat.

The process was this: put freezing cold sap into all of the pots after starting the fire. Once The main buffet pans were boiling (which took about an hour) and the warming pots were boiling, add from the warming pots into the buffet pans. The big pot poured into the buffet pans, the little pot poured into the big one, and new sap went into the little pot.

That cycle continued until all of the sap was gone and had been poured into the main buffet pans. Once that had turned light brown, the decision had to be made of when to take the sap off the heat and bring it inside. What I haven’t explained to this point is that there are a few more steps to the process. Once it is light brown and I feel like it is over 50% sugar content, I have to bring it inside to finish it off on the stove. But before I do that , I have to filter it. You see, being outside in the middle of winter, smoke, ash, wood flying every which way as I added to the fire, the sap was not pure and ready to eat. I filtered the sap through two sack cloths and an Orlon filter, a huge cone filter that is supposed to remove even the smallest niter (sugar sand). Here is a picture of the filter.

orlon filter

Once the very hot syrup is filtered and its around 213-214 degrees, I bring it inside to finish on the much more controllable stove. From this point there is still another hour of boiling off the necessary moisture and checking with the thermometer. Remember, it isn’t syrup until it is just over 219 degrees. Once it hit 219 on my thermometer, I actually let it continue to boil until it was nearly 220. This helps to make sure it isn’t so runny (although it will always be more runny than the maple flavored corn syrup you buy in the store). One last filter before it is poured into our mason jars. The lids are added and seal themselves from the high temperature of the syrup.

These 25 gallons of sap, with the addition of pans and adding more cement blocks to hold in the heat, took 8 hours from beginning to end and yielded 8 cups of syrup. That’s right, I did twice the sap in the same amount of time!

Did you know? The normal ratio of sap to syrup is 40 to 1, meaning 40 gallons of sap will produce 1 gallon of finished syrup. This all depends on the type of tree and the sugar content of its sap.

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