The following picture was sent to me as an email. The sender apparently found it on Facebook. Since I’m not on Facebook I thought I would share it here.
Our maple syrup season ended Saturday, March 25th . This is the second year we have made our own maple syrup, and I will share some of the things that we learned this year.
We started the syrup season by tapping the silver maple trees on our farm on February 13th. The weather over the four weeks that followed was very erratic as was the sap flow. Some days were warm and sunny and the sap seemed to flow good, then the temperatures would drop back down below freezing and the sap would stop. Some of the trees stopped flowing early on, so we moved taps to trees that had better sap flow. We lost track of the amount of sap that we harvested and the amount of syrup we made. I guess next year we should keep a daily log.
A few things we learned about the silver maples are that they seem to have a sugar content equal to or better than the sugar maples. When we cooked the sap down into syrup it took about 10 gallons or 40 quarts of sap to make 1 quart of syrup. Silver maples make a dark syrup with a robust flavor. Silver maples bud out earlier than sugar maples so their sap flow season ends earlier.
We pulled all of the buckets before the wild wind storm that came through on March 8th. At this time the sap flow on the silver maples was to a minimum and the trees were beginning to bud.
The weekend following the storm we had freezing (winter) temperatures, but once the weather began to warm again my husband noticed that the sugar maples in the woods behind our house were not yet budding. With permission from the community manager he set 20 taps in the sugar maples.
From March 13 until March 25th he collect the sap from the sugar maples. The weather was still erratic with some days having great sap flow while others yielded little. As with the silver maples we cooked sap on days when we had collected 10 or more gallons of syrup. On March 25th, when my husband collected the last of the sap, the trees were flowing slowly but had not completely stopped and the sap had not turned cloudy. We were, however, done. My best guestimate is that we cooked 3 1/2 gallons of syrup all together which at the ratio of 40 to 1 means we collected about 140 gallons of sap.
The syrup made from sugar maples was much lighter in both color and flavor than that of the silver maple. Both are very good.
Our biggest challenge in making syrup is finishing and filtering. Real maple syrup is usually very runny but we like our syrup a little thicker, so we first started cooking it down to a quite thick consistency. When we did this the we were unable to filter the final product, as the syrup was too thick to run through a filter. We discovered that there was no need to filter this because apparently any sand, or niter, had cooked into the syrup. We had no sand settle to the bottom of the jars. The other thing that happens is that the syrup has a tendency to turn to sugar. We didn’t consider it ruined because it still goes good on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
When we began cooking the syrup so that it was not so thick filtering it was still a challenge. We first tried pouring the syrup through a store bought filter. Even though it was still hot enough the syrup just sat on top of the filter. We next tried filtering it through felt. This worked well to remove a lot of the sand, but we still ended up with some sand in the bottom of the jar. After reading some websites I learned that before using the store bought filter it is best to pour hot or boiling water through it. So we tried this and the syrup ran through. Much of the sand was removed but we still ended up with a small amount of sand on the bottom of the jar. The sand is really nothing to worry about as it is largely comprised of calcium salts and malic acid, neither which are harmful when consumed. The act of removing the sand is purely for aesthetic purposes and a must for commercial producers.
It may seem like a lot of time and effort for so little syrup, but we consider this time well spent. Fortunately the season does not conflict with planting, growing or harvest seasons, and it is a great activity to get us out of the house in the late winter/early spring.