Maple Syrup


Tree we tapped last year.
It won't be long and the trees will be ready to tap.  Collecting the sap from maple trees is a fun hobby that can be done on different levels.  Obviously the more trees you tap the more taps you need and the more syrup you will end up with.  Doing only a few trees still can get some syrup to enjoy without as much invested into the process.

Travis and I took a hand at tapping trees last year.  We found the process quite fun.  It was time consuming to a point but such easy relaxing work that it was enjoyable.  We didn't tap a whole lot of trees.  We started out small.  We bought maybe 25 taps.  I felt we collected quite a bit of syrup too.  We were able to share some and eat lots ourselves.  Since we did such a small scale, I for the most part cooked the sap down on our stove top.  Some of it we would cook down in cookers outside before being brought inside for further cooking.  For larger amounts of sap you would for sure want an outdoor cooker system that was heated with wood.  For us though, and our small amount, and it being our first time, the stove worked fine.

Last fall Travis set out to mark even more maple trees.  We plan to buy some more taps.  We still didn't get a cooker figured out, but are thinking of using the turkey cookers outside on the deck.  We have one and my dad has one.  When the syrup is close to done you do still need to bring it in to a more controlled heat source.  Next year we have hopes of getting a cooker figured out.

Generally the sap will start flowing when the day time temperatures are above freezing but go back to below freezing at night.  Trees that have southern exposure will flow sooner.  Last year we missed the first flow.  We were on vacation(so no complaints by me: )  Though the first flow is the best.  The syrup you collect from the first flows will be a lighter syrup.  As you get to the end of the season you find the syrup becomes darker(and some say a little different flavor).  I want to say it lasts 4-6 weeks, but I honestly can't remember.  I remember though it was nice.  Travis enjoyed coming home after work and driving on the bad boy to collect the daily sap.  The kids also enjoyed going with.  Since we missed the first flow we just collected sap once a day.  In that first flow though I am told(on a good tree) you need to collect numerous times a day.

We were also lucky to have a someone to help us in the process.  Someone who makes syrup and sells it, is a regular at Burger King.  He was able to tell Travis the drill bit needed to tap the trees, and other small bits of advice that sometimes is just hard to find.  (He just started beekeeping and honey making last husband and father already have ideas rolling!)

Different grades of maple syrup.
The lightest coming from the first taps.
Getting darker as the season goes on.

Here is a brief definition of maple syrup from wikipedia.  I also included the link to the site.  It has more information on maple syruping.

Maple Syrup From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bottled maple syrup produced in Quebec.Maple syrup is a syrup made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees. In cold climate areas, these trees store starch in their stems and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar and rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped and the exuded sap collected and concentrated by heating to evaporate the water. Quebec, Canada, produces most of the world's supply of maple syrup.

Maple syrup was first collected and used by Native Americans and First Nations, and was later adopted by European settlers. It is most often eaten with waffles, pancakes, oatmeal, crumpets, and French toast. It is also used as an ingredient in baking, or as a sweetener and flavoring agent. Sucrose is the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup.

Maple syrup is graded according to the Canada, US or Vermont scales based on its density and translucency. Syrups must be at least 66 percent sugar to qualify as "maple syrup" in Canada; in the US, any syrup not made almost entirely from maple sap cannot be labeled as "maple". Maple syrup and the sugar maple tree are symbols of Canada and several US states, particularly Vermont.

Backyard Sugarin' by Rick Minn is the book I had happen to pick up at the library.  It is a fairly short book, but filled with lots of information for someone who wants to sugar as a hobby.

Site with some more information.

Tapping Trees 2011

The temps are reaching tapping points!  On Sunday Travis tapped some trees so they would be ready for the week.  On Monday evening we had some sap.  He went on to tap even more trees.  Last year we missed the first week of tapping.  They say that is when you get the most.  I can't wait to see what we have by the end of the week!  Come on 50 degrees and spring!
Follow this link to read why the sap flows when it does.
You need a drill bit of 5/16" or 7/16"
Drill at a downward angle on the South side of the tree.
Pound tap into tree
Place sak holder on tap.
Wait for the sap.
Sap already starting to drip out
Can you see some of it in the bag?  Exciting!
3/15/2011  One of the bags this afternoon. 

Boiling down the sap.
This is the sap we have collected as of 3/18/2011
Both cookers are full, one smaller jug is full, and the big jug has some in it.
You cook it down like this until you have cooked off most the water content.  It can take awhile.  It is better to do this over a wood stove.  When it reaches a certain point you will want to take it to a more controlled location to finish the syrup off.

To me that steam that flows off smells like spring is around the corner!

As it boils down you will add more sap.  You also skim off the foam.

Place sap and hydrometer in here to test the sugar content.



Bringing sap inside.  You can see sediments on the bottom that we will try to filter out.

This is why we filter the sap a few times.

Bring the sap inside to finish off the cooking process.

When the syrup is done, let it cool back down to 180 degrees.  It is then ready to place into jars.
Enjoying the fruits of our labor!
We figure we gathered 30 gallons of sap and ended up with about 2 quarts of syrup.  I know lots of sap not a lot of syrup.  Its so worth it though, especially after you have that first taste, mmmmm!  The cooking down process really isn't hard, yes it takes time, but have the station set up somewhere where you can do other things.  This year we boiled it down at my dad's shed.  While is was boiling down he was able to get more wiring done on the shed.  It is not hard physical labor, but actually quite relaxing. 
Now if the weather would cooperate we could get some more sap!





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