Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Maple Syrup Summary 2014

This was our second year tapping maple trees for syrup.  We boiled sap three times and netted 20 pints and a few flasks for the refrigerator.  You can see a change of color in the syrup indicating the different grades with the syrup on the left being from the first boil.  If you look closely, you can see a cloudy appearance in the bottom of the jars.  The cloudiness is a result of tapping silver maples.  We only have one sugar maple on the property. 

Silver maples have about a 60:1 ratio of sap to syrup.  Boiling syrup takes put it plainly...20 hours of boiling gave us 8 pints of finished syrup.  Of course, we don't sit in front of the fire all day.  We have other projects around the property so we check on the fire about every 20 minutes and add a log, so our boiling time is probably longer than others. 

We aren't hardcore enough to stay up all night (a nice cozy sugar shack would make this more appealing), so we put a piece of tin roofing over the pan leaving about an inch exposed in the back to let the steam out.  The covering keeps animals from drinking the sap and Jon's worst fear is a mouse leaping in for a suicide dive that will ruin our hard work. Luckily this has been just a fear so far.  In the morning, the pan is usually half full because the heat from the coals continues to evaporate the water out of the sap overnight. 

This year we received a lot of snow but the days we boiled were warm so the snow melted before we had a chance to eat "sugar on snow," a process which you drizzle finished syrup on top of snow to make a chewy maple candy. 

With the cold weather, we had the unfortunate experience of collecting overflowing buckets of frozen sap.  We do have the perfect terrain for using plastic tubing since the property is hilly, but we like the traditional way of collecting from buckets. 

When the sap isn't frozen, we transport the sap in plastic carboys (water cooler containers) with our hiking pack.  We have 24 sap buckets on the trees at all times. 

Last year we used a cast iron pot for boiling which wasn't time efficient and seemed to leave a sediment and smoky flavor in the syrup no matter how much we filtered it.  This season we decided to purchase a pan designed for boiling maple syrup that has a thermometer and spigot.  We purchased it through Smoky Lake Maple Products.  We really like the pan and are glad we spent the extra money. 

And the fact that the pan was made in the USA makes it that much more enjoyable. 

And why do I include a picture of our woodpile?  Well, because you need a lot of wood, and also a reminder to cover it in the fall.  Last season we forgot to cover it and learned the hard way with longer boiling times, so this year we were prepared!

While gathering the sap I couldn't help but notice that the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers also enjoy the maple tree sweetness.  The holes in this picture were made by the birds.  

Spring is around the corner even though while I write this snow is falling.  The buds on the maple trees are swelling and the maple syrup supplies are washed and stored in the basement.  Making syrup is a labor of love, but we will be excited to begin the whole process again next year.   


Anonymous March 16, 2014 at 6:46 PM  

Neat blog article! I love all the photos and thanks for all the nice compliments about Smoky Lake Maple Products.

Don't let those silver maples discourage you. We know a lot of people who tap silver maples. If you are having trouble with clarity of your end product, maybe you would want to try a different filtering method next year? Contact us after the season if you would like ideas/suggestions for next year!

Regardless, that looks like some tasty syrup!
Angela, Smoky Lake Maple Products

Mollie | Jennings Brae Bank Farm March 26, 2014 at 8:44 AM  

Wow! You have a great set-up for this. How satisfying to have your own sweetener and not have to buy as much at the store!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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