Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Alright!! The maple syrup experiment was a success! In my opinion anyway. Our season ended quicker than I wanted, due to this unusual warm spell, that has now lasted for a couple of weeks. So, I went ahead and took the 2 gallons of sap that I had collected and processed it. Now, to people that do this regularly, 2 gallons isn't squat. It's hardly even worth fooling with but for me it was something to try. Just enough to see if it would actually work and taste decent.
So, Jack hooked up the big propane burner that we use for boiling water for chicken scalding and I got my pots and stuff. Now, all this is done outside because it puts off an enormous amount of moisture. I used a large stainless steel pot and it was just big enough for the 2 gallons. So, basically you just get it up to a rolling boil and check on it every once it a while.
After several hours it had boiled down considerable and had begun to get this foam around the edge. I scooped that off occasionally. Don't know if it matters or not. At first the sap is basically like water but as it boils down it starts to take on a golden hue and you can smell the sweetness. At this point it was starting to get pretty low in the pot and I didn't want it to burn so I knew I would have to transfer it to a smaller pot. I had calculated about how much finished syrup I would get out of this batch (about 3/4 cup) so I knew when it was getting close. When it did get around a cup and a half or so I took it inside, which is okay because most of the water is gone, and poured it into a smaller pot on the stove. It's very important to have a candy thermometer to work with. I had also calculated the boiling point of water for my area because the syrup must reach 7.1 degrees above that boiling point. (It varies according to your elevation above sea level.)
So, I continued to boil all the while monitoring with the thermometer. At this point the syrup formed a lot of foam as it boiled but that's okay. When it reached temperature, for me 217.1 degrees F., I took it off the stove and poured it through clean fabric to filter it. You have to do this while it's still good and hot. The fabric I had wasn't too fine so I poured it through an unbleached coffee filter next and it cleared it up really nice. Some people recommend using a hydrometer to test the syrup and that's probably a good idea, and I actually have one, but this was such a small amount and I knew it would be kept it the fridge anyway so I didn't bother.
And here is the final product!! We had pancakes this morning with it and it is really good. It is not very thick as many people would expect syrup to be and it doesn't have that really strong maple flavor but I thought it was quite tasty and sweet. My maples are Red Maples by the way, not the Sugar Maples but you can use any type maple and they say even Sycamore and some other trees.
I know if I had a large batch of sap, say 30-40 gallons, this would be a much more time consuming and labor intensive thing but for what I did it was pretty easy. Just get set up and get the stuff boiling and check it every so often. Now, when it gets close to being boiled down all the way you have to monitor it closely but it was pretty simple and not a lot of trouble. I think spending a weekend to do this for a gallon or so of syrup would be well worth it.