I decided not to tap any of my maple trees this year. I just didn’t feel like doing it, and we still have plenty of syrup from last year. We don’t have very many syrup trees, maybe three dozen at the most. But, our friend Gill who lives across town has a couple hundred he usually taps. Last year he let us collect sap from his trees and boil it down on his evaporator. This year the weather hasn’t cooperated very well, but Gill has been collecting sap for about a week and expects to get more in the next few days. He offered us some sap, because he didn’t think he would get all that he had collected boiled down soon enough.
So, Dad and I went over yesterday to bring home some sap. We didn’t know quite how we were going to evaporate it to make maple syrup, but we figured we would come up with some way. In the past we have evaporated a few gallons inside on our wood stoves. But, we brought home about 85 gallons from Gill’s, and that is too much to do inside. Gill was kind enough to lend us his small evaporator pan. It holds about 15 gallons.
We put the sap in a 275 gallon tote that I had previously had water in for the cows (thankfully, it was empty). When we got back home, I made a quick fireplace with concrete blocks, some pieces of metal, and a short section of stove pipe. It’s large enough for the pan to cover the opening on the top. Keeping a good fire in it allows the sap to boil, evaporating off most of the water, leaving the sugars concentrated for syrup. We finish it inside one the wood stove. It boils away at about 1.5 inches per hour.
I finished two pints of syrup last night. This is grade “AA” stuff – quite thick and flavorful. I put another pan of sap on last night after taking off the first batch. Before going to bed I was able to add about 6 gallons more sap and then some more this morning for about 27 or 28 gallons all together. I made three pints of grade “AA” syrup form this today. We just took off the third batch we boiled down from about 21 gallons of sap this afternoon. Dad will finish it tonight. There’s another pan on to evaporate tonight and tomorrow morning, hopefully finishing up what we brought home.
When I bring the condensed sap in to finish it, I put it on the stove to boil. Inside I can watch it more carefully and keep from scorching it. Our candy thermometer doesn’t work, even though it is brand new (I don’t know if we’ve ever had one that actually works right). When the syrup started foaming vigorously, I figured it was ready to bottle. I heated pint jars in the oven and boiled some lids. Then, I strained the syrup (a slow process, usually) into the jars, put lids and rings on them, and set them on the counter. They usually seal within 30 minutes or so.
We enjoy the pure maple syrup we make during the rest of the year. It’s great on pancakes, of course.