Hello everyone! Its about time for me to start tapping the Maple trees and boiling down the sap!
For anyone looking to start here or anyone just curious about what it takes. Here is a little thing i put together.
Things to remember about when, what and how to make Maple Syrup.
Tools: Maple Tree Bucket (5gallon plastic pail) Spile/Tap Tubing Pan for boiling(outdoor is best as stovetop can get messy quick) Hydrometer Thermometer Filter (cheese cloth or a cloth cone filter from Bascommaple.com)
What is Maple Syrup? Maple Syrup is a thick liquid substance made from the sap of a Sugar Maple tree.
How is it made: Maple Syrup is made from sap that comes out looks opaque and just like water but tastes slightly sweet. This is because it contains only around 2% sugars. The sap is then taken to a boiler where the water is extracted until it reaches 66.7% sugar and reaches a temperature of 7degrees above the boiling point of water. This is where sap becomes Syrup. A good rule of thumb is take the sap sugar percentage which can be measured by a hydrometer and divide that into the number 86 and this will tell you how many gallons of sap it will take to make one gallon of syrup. In generally its takes 40-45 gallons of sap per gallon of syrup.
Tapping: Pay attention to the weather when tapping, it’s a crucial aspect. (see weather section) Taps usually last about a month; this can be extended by dipping the drill bit and tap in rubbing alcohol right before inserting them in the tree. Trees that are 8” or lager in diameter may be tapped. Trees that are over 18” can handle two taps spaced out to the right or left of the other tap, and trees over 24” can take 3 taps. Tap on the south side of the tree as this is where the tree receives the most sunlight allowing for rapid warming. Place the drill bit chest high to the tree and drill steadily at a slightly upward angle no more than .75” into the tree for the first drill(tip: take a piece of tape and wrap it around the bit at.75” you will know that you when you hit that mark when the tape starts dragging on the tree.) Clean the hole out from the debris and insert the tap and gently tap it in until snug. If you have a spout with a bucket hook, hook the bucket to the tap and cover it and attach the tubing to the spile and drop through a snug hole in the top of the bucket. If no hook. Place the bucket on the ground at the base of the tree and attach a longer piece of tubing from the spile to the bucket. If the hole runs dry you may take the tap out and re-drill the hole .25” deeper to create new flow. Clean the hole, bit and tap with the rubbing alcohol again. This is it no more than a total of 1” into the tree or else the holes may not heal properly.
Collecting: in general it is best to collect all sap on a daily bases and to store it in a tank until you can boil. Sap spoils quickly and once it does so the syrup will taste bad. If you can’t boil right away put the sap in a tank and pile snow around it to keep it cold. As long as sap stays around 40 or below you should get 3-4 days of storage life out of it. If buckets get dirty through the season take them down and wash them. When dirty they allow sap to spoil faster. This is very important during the season.
Boiling: if you can boil the same day you collect that’s awesome. If not store it up for a full days work. Boiling takes a long time and a lot of patients. It is important to filter the sap before it enters your boiler. Additionally, as its boiling never leave the pot or boiler unattended bad things can happen. Monitor the syrup consistency with a thermometer and the hydrometer, once it reaches syrup the viscosity of the bubbles will change rapidly and can potentially boil over leaving a huge mess. Furthermore, once it reaches syrup it can reach the rock candy stage quickly. If this happens, you won’t know it until the syrup has cooled. Rock candy crystals will slowly form along the sides and bottoms of the jar, spoiling your hard work. I have done this a couple of times. Filter the finished syrup hot, it’s much less dense and goes through the filter easier. The biggest rules are to constantly watch it and be careful; it can burn you very badly. (Tip. I like to keep a bucket of sap around just in case things start to get too hot and sticky in the boiler, if it starts to get too dense too quick I dump fresh sap in and it can save the syrup.)
Canning/ Bottling: When the syrup is finished make sure you hot back sterile jars at 170-190 degrees for a good seal. Mason jars work well for the home producer. Un-refrigerated and unopened they should stay for years if packaged correctly. If you want to be safe refrigerated the syrup and you will be fine. If your jars look cloudy it’s okay, everything will settle out to the bottom and it’s perfectly fine for you to consume… after all its part of the natural process.
Weather: Ideal tapping weather is when days are 40’s-50’s and nights are in the 20’s this allows the trees to produce large amounts of sap. If the day is not warm enough the trees won’t run, if it stays warm for a period of time the trees may shut down and start using the sugars for leaf production (generally the end of the season) if this happens mid-season a long cold snap will put the trees back in syrup making stage. If sap is yellow it can mean a few things: the tree is sick, rainwater mixed off the bark or the season is ending. If you are a home producer this sap is usually worthless as it will make bitter syrup. If a large producer, boiling this to syrup will make grade C which can be sold in bulk for use in maple flavored products.
WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE ONE GALLON OF SYRUP
THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE ONE GALLON OF MAPLE SYRUP
It takes four maple trees, at least 40 years old, growing in the mountain “sugarbush” to yield enough sap in six weeks to produce one gallon of maple syrup.
It takes a “tapping crew” to climb the mountain in snow, lugging buckets, taps and a drill to tap the trees to make syrup.
It takes a “gathering crew” to climb the mountains daily during February and March to collect the dripping sap and haul it down to the “sugarhouse.”
It takes forty gallons of sap, boiled down in the “evaporator” to concentrate the sweet sap-water into one gallon of syrup.
It takes a four foot log, sawed, split, dried and burned in the raging fire in the “arch” under the evaporator for each gallon of syrup produced.
It takes 3 people to continually fire the arch, operate the evaporator and sterilize, filter, grade and pack each gallon of syrup.
It takes the entire sugarmaker’s family 1 week to wash the buckets, taps, and equipment for the fallowing year.
SO - if you had to climb the mountain, tap the trees, haul the sap, cut the wood, stoke the fires, pack the syrup, and clean the equipment, how much would you ask for a gallon of Pure Maple Syrup?
Pictures and updates coming soon! Hopefully tomorrow by mid afternoon!