The warm temperatures on Friday and Saturday were great for sap flow, so by the end of the day Saturday my husband had collected approximately 10 gallons or 40 quarts of sap. While collecting the sap from the sap buckets into plastic 5 gallon pails he filtered the sap through a honey filter that sits in the top of the 5 gallon bucket. This removed any solids that found their way into the sap. Overnight temperatures were cool enough to store the sap outside without it spoiling.
Yesterday morning he set out for the farm with the equipment he needed for cooking the sap. I didn’t get pictures of this part of the process yet, but hopefully I will as we collect and cook more sap. For equipment he took a 30 quart stainless steel pot for cooking the syrup and a long handle stainless steel spoon for stirring. He also took a second pot that the hot syrup would be transferred to in order to bring it home. He packed a lunch for himself and some treats for Scout and Trooper.
Since we don’t have a sugar shack or sap house for processing the sap indoors, it was a blessing that the weather was favorable for keeping an outdoor fire going. In preparation for this my husband had constructed a special fire pit, in a high and dry location, and split several wheel barrels full of fire wood. He began his syrup making mission by getting the fire going around 10 A.M. with a goal of having some finished product by days end. Keeping the fire burning and the pot boiling were his main objectives. He first thought that boiling small amounts at a time (filling the pot 1/4 full) would speed up the process, but he quickly learned that each time he would add more cold sap the temperature would drop so dramatically that it would take 10-12 minutes to return to a boil. Realizing the whole pot was hot, he decided to fill he pot closer to the top and maintain the boil while adding only smaller amounts of sap as it boiled down. He said it took about two hours before it came to a rolling boil.
In mid afternoon he made a quick trip back to the house to bring Scout and Trooper (who apparently just wanted to lay in the van) and to grab some hot dogs that he could cook over the fire for dinner. At this point he was anticipating that it could be as late as 8 P.M. before he was done cooking down the sap.
Reality was that around 6 P.M., a long eight hours after he began, and just in time for the chickens to be closed in their coop for the night, the sap had boiled down enough that the rest of the process could be done in the kitchen.
When he returned home we poured the cooked-down sap into a much smaller pan.
We heated it for a few minutes before deciding this would be a good time to filter it. We had decided to use a juice (or jelly) bag, that I had on hand for filtering the “sand”(a byproduct of boiling sap) out of the syrup. This seemed to work well. We then returned the sap to a boil and watched closely as it continued to boil down. My husband also told me to take some bacon out of the freezer to cook with tomorrows waffles for breakfast.
Once it seemed to be thickening I put in a candy thermometer. It needed to be brought up to 219 degrees fahrenheit or 7 degrees above the boiling point of water.
While I watched the thermometer, my husband used a spatula dipped in the syrup to check for sheeting – the syrup forms a sheet on the spatula instead of running off in droplets.
When the syrup was sheeting on the spatula and the temperature reached 219 degrees, which happened about the same time, we poured the syrup into sterilized ball jars.
Of course we had been tasting our product along the way, and I can honestly say that, while I don’t have a long history of tasting pure maple syrup, this is the best maple syrup that I have ever tasted.
This mornings breakfast menu included bacon and blueberry waffles, (with frozen blueberries from last springs harvest and our farm fresh egg), and of course our own maple syrup. Yumm!
http://andersonsmaplesyrup.com/index.php?page=nutritionalinformation This link has some really good nutritional information about real maple syrup.
While we don’t call it a bucket list, making maple syrup has certainly been on our to-do list for quite a long time and we are thrilled that we have done it. 🙂
Since the weather has cooled again the sap is not flowing, this weird weather pattern has only left us wondering when the next sap will flow and how much syrup we might end up with this year. But in the mean time we have realized why real maple syrup costs so much.
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