Friday, March 13, 2015

Our 2015 Maple Syrup Haul

I think our sugaring season is over. We've had temps in the 50s and 60s during the day and it hasn't been below freezing at night. So, not the right weather for tapping trees. We did manage to collect 86 cups (~ 5.38 gallons) over three days over the weekend before it warmed up too much. It was too much to boil down at one time on our stove, so I split the batch and boiled down the first two days' worth of sap into syrup. I'm not sure if I boiled it longer, or if it just had a higher water content, but there was less of it and it ended up thicker and darker than the first batch. In the end we got another 200ml (between 3/4 and 1 cup) of syrup.

1.25 cups + ~.85 cups= just over 2 cups of maple syrup, from our own trees!

The last of the sap was half the amount I boiled down on both previous occasions. I knew it wouldn't yield much syrup, and I hadn't tried making maple candy yet, so I decided to give that a go. Since I was dealing with a small amount of sap it wouldn't be disastrous if it didn't work out and I wouldn't feel like it was a total waste.

As the sap boiled down, I kept transferring it to smaller pots, but ended up with too small of a pot- even though there wasn't much of it, the sap bubbled up over the edge and I had to transfer it quickly to a larger pot. I had consulted several sites and decided to bring the sap up to 230-235*. At that point I turned off the heat and let it sit until it cooled down to less than 100*. What surprised me was that the temperature continued to rise before it fell. Probably a side effect of using a gas stove rather than an electric stove.       please excuse the next two crappy nighttime photos

in the bowl, just before I started stirring

After the syrup had cooled to less than 100*, I poured it into a small metal bowl and started stirring. I stopped a couple times to take pictures, but since there wasn't much, it didn't take long at all for the syrup to lighten and thicken.

syrup is lighter in color and a little more volume because of the air I stirred into it

Seconds after the above picture, the syrup seized up and turned solid. It's not pretty, but it is yummy. I think I could have gotten a result closer to store-bought maple candy if I had cooked the syrup to a lower temp. That would have allowed me to pour it into molds before it finished solidifying.

 I wasn't sure what to expect with the whole process, but I'm happy we got an edible result :)

Sunshine doesn't care for store-bought maple candy, but she declared that our homemade maple candy was yummy. Success!

maple sugar chunks

Next year I'll definitely start earlier in the season so we can collect more sap. Apparently the sap you collect earlier in the season is what yields Grade A syrup and the sap from later in the season yields Grade B syrup. So I guess what we have is Grade B syrup.

This year over 5 days we gathered about 8.25 gallons of sap that boiled down to just over 2 cups of syrup and 1/3 cup of maple candy. Considering the price of maple syrup, that's actually not too bad for a few hours of work.

While the process may seem like a lot of work, it's not hard work, it just takes a bit of time.

Time to identify the trees
Time to tap the trees
Time to collect the sap every day
Time to boil down the sap

Boiling the sap takes the longest, but can mostly be done while doing other things. I only had to keep a closer eye on it as it got close to being done. Figuring out how long to cook down the sap will get easier with time as I learn what to expect and learn how the sap changes as it cooks down. Taking notes will also help me keep track of things from year to year :)

Have I inspired you to give sugaring your trees a try next year?

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