How we make maple syrup
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Maple syrup is the first harvest of the year. We tap the three Norway maple trees that line our driveway when the sap starts rising, usually mid- February through early March. When the ground is frozen the sap is stored in the roots of the trees. Increasing temperatures and longer hours of daylight warm the trunk and branches, drawing the sap upward when the days are above freezing. When the cold of night returns, the sap retreats to the roots. This is the time to tap the trees. The greater the temperature difference between night and day, the greater the sap flow.
Maple trees can first be tapped when they reach 10 inches in diameter. These small trees are one-bucket size. Larger trees can take up to three taps. A rough eastimate is that each tap yeilds enough sap for about one quart of syrup per season after boiling.
You drill the right size hole in the trunk, lightly hammer a spiggot into it and hang a lidded bucket from this spile or tap. When the sap is running strong, before you turn away to set the next one you will already hear the drops of maple sap plinking into the bucket. The buckets are emptied daily, twice a day when the flow is strong. We strain the sap to remove any twigs leaves or stray ants and when we have accumulated 40 quarts we start boiling. We have two 20 quart stockpots we set up on propane burners in a sheltered outdoor location. Those 40 quarts of sap will yeild one quart of syrup. The burners are started when we get home from work and turned off about 10 PM. The sap boils and evaporates, which takes a few evenings. when it has boiled down to about 5 quarts we pour it through coffee filters to remove as much of the cellulose that forms the sediment as we can.. The cellulose is a natural component of tree sap and is harmless to consume but it has no flavor, and a gritty texture. We continue boiling on the kitchen stove, watching carefully for the temperature to reach 218 degrees, at which point it is syrup, We pour the boiling syrup into sterilized jars, and process the capped jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
This liquid gold is great on panckaes and waffles, and if we have alot, some goes into pies and bar cookies.