From sap to syrup part one

Boiling sap indoors means a nice sweet-smelling steambath for the kitchen.  We don’t recommend doing this indoors; we were frankly just anxious to try it…

Longtime readers will notice that all our labors here involve moving things, categorically, from”Get It Elsewhere” to “Make It Here.”  Sure, there have been a few “why did we bother” projects, but most are rewarding.  Most!  This is encouraging, isn’t it?

And when we scraped down our first batch of maple sugar from the bottom of the roasting pan on Thursday night, the three of us, sticky spoons in mouths, mumbled something to the extent of “why didn’t we do this before?”

Okay, okay; sure, the ratio, in gallons, of sap to syrup in most commercial boilings is 43:1.  So who cares that it took us five gallons to get our measly first half pint?  It was seriously the best syrup we’d ever had.  Maple sap is only about 2% sugar, you see; the rest is mostly water.  The bags are filling quickly and normal recommendations are that you empty them every 2 days, especially if the daytime temperatures hit 40 or more.

Propane-fired tabletop burner (attached to tank) with kettle stand in foreground

This is our setup:  In Tom’s garage, we use the metal stand that came with our smoker (to adapt it to being a turkey fryer, so of course it was never used until now) to boil off the sap in a large (3.5 gallon) kettle.  Once it reduces by about 3/4, we pour it into a roasting pan and finish it on this rusty two-burner stove.  OF COURSE I don’t have pictures of the actual operation.  I figured Tom’d never get through those 20 gallons in one day.  (He did.)  Grand total:  about a quart and a half.

I promise to get more pictures.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, sap-wise.

This bag has been hanging for about 6 hours

9 responses to “From sap to syrup part one

  1. I am so jealous, syrup AND 40 degree days!

  2. Right on El!! We are going into our forth season of sugarin’ and love it. It is fun having a hobby to fill that late winter gap. We will be tapping our trees here in St. Paul in another week or so. For anybody getting into this, I recommend the book Backyard Sugarin’ by Rink Mann. It came out in the late seventies, so it may be harder to find, but it is well worth it. It is a fun read and gives the beginner a lot of good ideas and the confidence to try it out. Keep on Sugarin!!!

  3. Oh WOW. This is the most awesome post I’ve read in some time! I have always wanted to capture sap to make maple syrup! This is incredibly cool!

  4. I just love that you did this inside. Makes the oh, so many things I have done inside seem slightly less crazy.

  5. I remember as a kid I helped Mom with the process of making maple syrup in the kitchen. Bad idea! We noticed a few days later a thick, dark liquid dripping from the ceiling in the front hallway. Cleaning ceilings is not fun. It was decided that at least most of the processing would be done outside for future batches.
    Today, my parents have their own sugar shack where the sap slowly drips into the warming pan atop the boiling pan from the two 55 gallon barrels in the shed on the hill. Dad made the “syrup” stove which is heated by wood.

  6. Very nice, I have enjoyed reading about how you do this….but now you got me wondering if our maples can be used this way. Not sure what they are, “Big Leaf” maples or something like that. I might have to do a little test and see.

  7. Boiled off over a hundred gallons of sap indoors this year. You just can’t do it every day: only when it’s warm enough to keep the windows open, or dry enough, atmospherically, that your things can dry out between boilings. On good days, you have several burners going; more often, just one, just a few hours a day. Late into the season, when the overall spring humidity kicks in, forget about it. I tapped January 23rd this year, which helped with that. But I’ve heard stories of people steaming the wallpaper off their walls, so, this may not be for everyone. Another trick is to try to encourage your stored sap to freeze as much as possible when you can, and discard the ice—if it freezes solid, let it thaw slowly and draw off the water until it ceases to be sweet—under good conditions this can really help with the boiling load.

  8. Oh what fun! I have imagined making syrup over the years. A friend of mine did it indoors and it worked out well for her.

  9. Pam, so maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the 60-degree day we had on Wed.? The frogs are even out!

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Andy. Yes, I really like how this sugaring thing gets us out of the house and geared up so early in the season. Usually it’s just me running around like an idiot but now that Tom has become Sugar Master with his bees and his trees it’s great. Plus, there’s not much else a-going on yet.

    Meeeeems! Glad you enjoyed it! The syrup is fantastic. It’s been a fun project all around.

    DIana well I will admit I have never broken the animals-in-the-house rule, except I did nurture a sick chicken on the back porch once. But yeah, that first syrup on those first pancakes made the mess worthwhile.

    Luann your parents sound like PROFESSIONALS. I can completely see how people can get truly geeked out about this process, especially since it involves fire. But yes, our junk stayed in our kitchen which is fine because we’re redoing the kitchen anyway…no brown goo though!

    Mike, you’ll love it. Trust me here. And yes, look it up. Remember ours are not sugar maples and we can still get syrup. Birch and box elder are also used, if that helps.

    Will! You and your wife always seem to be up to interesting projects, especially your home-brewing. I do envy your ability to open the windows, though; it’s been a bit too chilly except for one day to do such a thing here. And I will tell Tom about the freezing trick too. The freezers surely aren’t too full at this time of year; they’re winding down quite a bit in fact. Thanks.

    Liz, yeah, if you can boil off most of the sap outside and then bring it in to finish it on your stove, it really isn’t that big of a deal. We’ve done it all three ways (all outside, all in and a mix of both) and it really depends on the time of day when things are rocking and ready to go that determines if it’s out or in.

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