Sipping on some siz-yrups: Making homemade maple syrup (part deux)

| by | farm, sustainability | 4 comments:

Last week we collected sap from our maple trees in order to make homemade maple syrup. (See how we tapped the trees here) We tapped the trees on Sunday and by Saturday afternoon we had about 72 gallons of sap! With a 40:1 ratio, that means that we should have just under 2 gallons of syrup. Here’s part two of our syrup making endeavor.

Collecting the sap throughout the week
Collecting the sap throughout the week

syrup1

During the week, we collected our sap and stored them in buckets on the north side of the barn so they could stay cool. The weather stayed in the high 40’s-low 50’s all week so it was able to stay fresh and not spoil. But be warned, sap can spoil! Make sure you’re storing it in a cool place and not storing it any longer than you have to.. or else it turns sour and forms into a snot like consistency and you’ll have to throw it out. Now that you have that visual in your brain, let’s talk about cooking!

We transfered the sap to 5 gallon buckets (which we painted white to reflect the sun) and stored them on the north side of the barn.
We transfered the sap to 5 gallon buckets (which we painted white to reflect the sun) and stored them on the north side of the barn.

Our friend Kurt (his Kurtness), of the Cassilly Crew lent us his maple syrup cooking pan. This thing is a huge stainless steel pan, divided into two sections with a pour spout for each section. The large amount of surface area will allow us to cook it down at a more even temperature and a lot quicker than using an open pot. Dave and Forrest went down to the swimmin’ hole and set up two metal saw horses in the fire pit, set the pan on top and built a fire underneath.

Here's our kickass sap boiling setup. Thanks again, Kurt!
Here’s our kickass sap boiling setup. Thanks again, Kurt!

Now the process itself of making maple syrup isn’t all that exciting. It’s basically like watching paint dry. We’d start off with about 10-15 gallons in each side and wait for it to come up to a boil and cook down. When it did cook down, we put in another bucket, skim off some foam and repeat. And that’s about it. I recommend making a “thing” out of it. Have your buddies come down with some beers, BBQ, a lot of free time and have yourself a good ol’ fashioned country maple syrup party. I also recommend starting early. We started about 1:00pm and finished cooking the sap outside about 6pm.

The first pour of sap into our boiling pan.
The first pour of sap into our boiling pan.
Look at all of that water cooking off! Really, look at it. That's all you do.
Look at all of that water cooking off! Really, look at it. That’s all you do.
Maple syrup party!
Maple syrup party!

After we put in the last bucket, it took about an hour or two for it to cook down and form that beautiful amber color. It turns really quick so make sure you have a good eye on it! As soon as it started to turn amber, we emptied out all of the sap into a couple of stock pots/5 gallon buckets and brought them back up to the house to finish.

This is another fun waiting game. You think you’re really close to being done at this point but don’t get too excited… you’re not close. Not at all. Crank your stove up to high and let the sap boil in your stock pot along with a candy thermometer. Let it boil on the stove and cook off the remaining water. After the water is cooked off, the sap will change properties and turn into syrup. Your sap will start to get really foamy, rise quickly and thicken up all at the same time. You’re looking for that magic temperature of 219 degrees and once you’ve hit that, make sure you have your canning supplies nearby.

Move your maple syrup party inside and start cooking the sap on the stove. Make sure you have really good ventilation!
Move your maple syrup party inside and start cooking the sap on the stove. Make sure you have really good ventilation!
Once the water has boiled off, the temperature will rise to 219 and get really foamy and bubble up, like so.
Once the water has boiled off, the temperature will rise to 219 and get really foamy and bubble up, like so.

We used a piece of cheesecloth, pint jars and our canning funnel to put up our syrup. The cheesecloth will catch any large pieces of sediment that may be in your syrup but if there’s a few small pieces of sediment floating in your jar, you’ll be fine. That’s nothing to worry about. Because the syrup is so hot and has such a high sugar content there’s no need to run it through a water bath, the jars will seal themselves.

Ta-da! I guess this means that I'm making pancakes tomorrow.
Ta-da! I guess this means that I’m making pancakes tomorrow.

And there you have it, a perfect pint jar of your own homemade maple syrup. I wish I could describe the smell of it. The whole house was filled with the sweet aroma of maple sugar. For someone who grew up on Aunt Jemima’s syrup, I can honestly say that I’ve never had anything like it before. I absolutely recommend tapping your own trees for sap, but I will say that it’s much more worthwhile to do in large batches. It’s also more fun if you have some people to help you out and keep you company while you’re watching water boil. Guess this means I have to make pancakes for breakfast this weekend.


4 Responses

  1. February 14, 2013
    Reply

    […] It takes about 40 gallons of sap to cook down into 1 gallon of syrup. That may sound like a lot but it really adds up quick. Like, real quick. Our buckets only hold 2 gallons each so we will obviously need to store some sap until we’ve collected enough to cook down into a substantial amount of syrup. The great wise Kurt told us that sap can spoil if left in 45+ degree weather for long enough. The best thing to do would be to store all the sap in a fridge but who the hell has room in their fridge for 40 gallons of sap or the money for a sap fridge? So Kurt suggested storing it in white 5 gallon buckets or coolers on the north side of a building. The white bucket will help reflect the sun and keep the sap cool. And being on the north side of a building will keep it in the shade most of the time. His Kurt-ness also told us that to find a nice layer of ice on top of your stored syrup is a good thing. Make sure not to store the sap for any more than a week or you’ll really risk it spoiling. Basically, tap trees one weekend, collect all week and boil the next weekend. That being said, see you all next weekend for part two. […]

  2. February 14, 2013
    Reply

    I think if we had a setup like yours, we would have enjoyed the process a lot more. And if I hadn’t boiled the syrup too long and it wasn’t a paste-like consistency, that would have helped as well. Live and learn, I guess 🙂

    • February 14, 2013
      Reply

      I think doing large quantities is the way to go. If I had to babysit boiling water all day and ended up with just a pint or two of syrup I probably would have been really pissed. But doing a large batch made it worth the time and effort. But I would have started earlier in the day… way earlier! I was up till 2am for two nights in a row trying to finish it and I STILL have partially boiled sap left in the fridge.

  3. March 20, 2014
    Reply

    […] year we showed you how to tap maple trees and how to collect that sap and make homemade maple syrup. This year we’re stepping up our game! More trees. More taps. More sap. More fire. More […]

Leave a Reply