Maple Syrup, our first year

This year we decided to try our hand at maple syrup production.

We picked up a handful of taps and a drill bit made for tapping. The drill bit wasn’t necessary but it’s the proper size for the job, takes the guess work out of it and, if taken care of, should last a very long time.

Equipment: Cordless drill, hammer, metal taps, drill bit, empty juice containers and some twine.

We tapped two trees so we could learn how the process went.

Pretty straight forward. Drill up at a slight angle, tap in the tap and string up the bucket. I wonder how long it’d take before the sap would flo…

Oh… okay!

Here’s a picture of the set up. Fancy.

And already some sap in there!

We collected between 2 and 4 litres total per day on average.

Now the part we weren’t so sure on, and weren’t fully ready for. Ideally we would have had a firepit or outdoor oven to shield against the wind, but we didn’t – next year we will 😉

Out came the portable burner. I’d advise against boiling down any significant amount of sap indoors. Remember, it takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup. That’s a LOT of moister to introduce in to your kitchen.  We did some of the end boiling down inside and even that was a fair amount of moisture.

Boil down took a while. Neglected to time it but 6 to 8 litres took several hours. Ideally wood fired is the way to go, higher temp, faster boil down.

We started out using a candy thermometer and following the guidelines but by the end we just boiled it down and went by feel. Sometimes we had to reboil and get it a little more concentrated.

Ta da! Syrup!

One thing we didn’t anticipate was how different it tasted. Our syrup had a buttery taste to it.

Never really thought about it but commercial syrup makers take a whole bunch of trees and mix the sap together for boil down. We were able to use two trees in a similar location and taste their flavours, not a mix. Not a knock against commercial farms, they still have an alter in our basement adorned with bottles of maple syrup!

If you plan to try maple syruping I’d suggest marking which trees are which during the spring (after the leaves are out)/summer/fall. When you have to tap in the spring before the leaves are out it’s much harder to identify which type of maple it is.

All maples can produce maple syrup, sugar maple, naturally, is the best. Red maple is after that and so on. The amount of sugar in the sap varies by tree type. Next year we may try to seperate the tree types and see if there’s a real difference in taste.

We may also try to tap birch, however it takes 80 to 110 litres of birch sap to make 1 litre of syrup – and that would be why it’s not more popular. :)

Overall making our own maple syrup wasn’t that time consuming. We’d check the buckets once or twice a day, collect enough sap to make the boiling worth while, and do it. We’ll see next year how much that changes when we expand how many trees we do, and how it is with a firepit.

The reward of doing it ourselves, having that knowledge and experience, was great. And, since we did it ourselves, it tasted  better. 😉



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