Last week we wrote about tapping our trees to make our own maple syrup. This week we wanted to share our process for turning the sap into syrup!
Outdoor burner or fryer with thermometer
5-gallon bucket of sap
Fine mesh sieve/strainer
1 quart measuring cup
Pot for finishing syrup inside
Cheesecloth or coffee filters
Bottle(s) for finished syrup
1) Gather your supplies.
Place your bucket of sap where it is easily accessible. Light your outdoor burner and get it going. Grab your strainer and measuring cup for transferring the sap from the bucket to the pot to boil and keep them handy.
2) Begin boiling down the sap.
Start with 1 quart of sap (it's best to keep the sap shallow in the pan so it boils and evaporates quicker). Pour the sap through the strainer into the pot on the burner. Bring it up to a rolling boil and maintain the heat. While the first batch is boiling away, pour another quart of sap and get it hot (we just used the microwave) so it doesn't bring the temperature down too much when you add it in.
In just a short amount of time, you will notice a lot of the water evaporating. When the sap level has reduced quite a bit, add in another quart. We let one batch go for about 20 minutes before putting in another quart.
Follow this process until you have used all of the sap. We were putting in 1 quart every 20 minutes, and it took us nearly 5 hours to boil down 5 gallons of sap!
3) Finish the syrup.
After all of your sap has been boiled down to about a quart remaining (basically the same level you started out with), you can finish it off indoors. Nearly all of the water has been evaporated off at this point so you won't make a sticky mess of your kitchen. Before you get started indoors, run the sap through a filter once again
to make sure there is nothing in the sap you don't want in there. You
will notice that having been boiled down quite a bit, the sap has turned
from clear to a lovely amber color. It really starts to
look like syrup! But it's not there just yet.
Finished syrup boils at 7.1 degrees above the boiling temperature of water, so you need to bring it up to the right temperature for it to be transformed into syrup (the boiling point of water is usually 212 degrees, but it can vary depending on your weather and altitude so test your thermometer with some rapidly boiling water to see where it registers). If you plan to store the syrup for a while before using, at this point you can pour it into a mason jar then turn the jar upside down and the heat from the syrup will seal the lid. Otherwise, let the syrup cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator.
And there you have it! Your very own handmade maple syrup. If you've never had fresh, homemade maple syrup, let me tell you - it is out of this world delicious! It doesn't taste like any syrup I've had before. It is more like liquid candy! We did notice that our syrup is a little bit thinner than what we're normally used to, but that didn't bother us too much because the taste more than made up for the consistency.
After 5 hours of babysitting the sap we were pooped! We had more sap to go, but were honestly getting tired of the process. We were wondering if there was anything else we could do with the sap other than going through the whole process to make finished syrup. David got creative and put some sap on to boil for a few minutes just to sort of sanitize it, then put it in a cup with a tea bag and made some tea! It was pretty good, but needed a bit more sweetness for our taste buds, so we added a little honey and it was perfect.
All in all, we are very happy that we did this ourselves and learned firsthand how maple syrup is made. We definitely have a much deeper appreciation for it now! That being said, I don't know if we'll continue to make our own syrup in the future. We both agreed that it was A LOT of work for such a small amount of syrup (the ratio of sap to syrup is a staggering 40:1 after all) and we didn't really feel that it was the best use of our time. We don't use maple syrup all that much, so to be quite honest I'd rather shell out $7 for a bottle of pure maple syrup at the store than going through the long process of making our own (and spending much more than $7!). I know that's not very homesteady of me, but that's the truth. We are still learning which activities interest us and are good uses of our time and money, and for us, maple syrup just isn't one of them.
I would recommend that everyone try this at least once and see how much work it is for yourself. It is neat to see the process and have an understanding of all that goes into a tiny bottle of syrup. Who knows, maybe you'll love it and find a new passion! But for us, I think one time was enough.
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