Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Making Your Own Maple Syrup: Part 2 - From Sap To Syrup

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!

Supplies
Outdoor burner or fryer with thermometer
Propane tank
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

Process
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.

~Tammy

Shared with Down Home Blog Hop, Wildcrafting WednesdayCountry Homemaker Hop, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday Blog HopExplorers Blog HopSunny Simple SundayEco-Kids TuesdayThe HomeAcre Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Homesteading Skills     

53 comments:

  1. Maybe someday I'll give it a go, but right now, I just don't have that kind of time - so I'll shell out the money for a bottle the next time I'm up in Vermont or NH :)

    It was very interesting to see how it was made, though. I am really impressed that you guys tried it!

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  2. This looks off the chain! I will never look at store-bought syrup the same again after these two syrup posts :)

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  3. How cool that you did it, even if it was a lot of work for the results.

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  4. When we lived in New York and talked to syrup makers, I remember how surprised I was when I heard about that 40:1 ratio! For sure, it is a lot easier to buy a bottle, but the appreciation you guys got from making it yourselves once is worth a lot too! And yum! There is nothing like the real thing:)

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  5. Oh I love Maple Syrup and I live in Syrup country so knowing it is a lot of WORK and as My Hero say since we used wood to boil it was crazy for what we get. We always buy it from the locals fresh out of the tree and pot. Yummy
    The sap is very good for you I hear. Maybe the tea would be a great idea. Great post. B

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  6. I can imagine it tastes wonderful. You are right though sometimes I have to determine if all the time I take to do something is worth it. The stuff sure is spendy to buy though.

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  7. Not every homesteader can do every task. :) Some of us love to make maple syrup (and sugar and such), and some would rather become good at other aspects. That's part of the greatness of a homesteader community! :)

    We have made our own several times in the past (though not last year as we'd only just moved in and weren't ready for it). This year I plan on making my own maple syrup, and I have the trees marked up already.

    One thing you can do is boil the sap a little longer and it will get thicker. If you get too thick, it'll turn to maple sugar, which you can scoop out with a strainer and set to dry. The way to tell if you got the maple syrup "just right" is to put it in your freezer. If it remains pourable after freezing, then you got it perfect. If it freezes up a wee bit then you still had a bit much water in it (although it doesn't really change it that much imo). I've managed two perfect batches in several years of making it. *grin* I've also accidentally made several pints of maple sugar over the years, when I was not paying close enough attention during that end stage. LOL...

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  8. I think that if you plan to use maple syrup as your main source of sweetner, then it makes a lot of sense to tap as many trees as you can. We have an abundance of sugar maples, but it does take an awful lot of sap to make the syrup :-) Great job!

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  9. Well, doing it yourselves does make you appreciate it more. You're right though. When homesteading, you have to determine the best use of your time. And even though the syrup is really good, it does sound like a tremendous amount of work.
    Farmhouse hugs,
    Cindy

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  10. That sounds really interesting...I agree about sometimes buying things instead of making or growing your own...sometimes you just don't have the time to do it all! But trying things are the way we learn if we could make a go of it...I enjoyed reading about it! have a great day!!

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  11. I go through the same trial and error process with my home projects, as well...but I always have to try first!

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  12. Part 2 was just as interesting. I was absolutely shocked to see that the sap was clear. I really thought that it would have some color to it! I agree with you about choosing where you want to spend your time and efforts :)

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  13. Love it! It is a lot of work to make the syrup. That is why we cook it down in huge stainless tubs that hold many gallons of sap over huge stock tanks turned into makeshift stoves. And it still takes days to cook down the sap, even when keeping the fires going 24 hours a day. So glad you tried to do this and even if you never try again, you have an idea why the syrup is so expensive in the stores! Allyson's comment is good in that it really does take a homesteading community! If we lived close to each other, we could barter my syrup for your eggs!

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  14. Lol! I remember how long it took from when I was a kid! I have a few maple trees and have thought about making my own syrup, but I get it for free from family...so it's a no brainer. :)

    Glad to hear about your experience! and now you know how to do it in case there is ever a shortage of sweets in the world. ;-)

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    1. I forgot to say Thanks for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday!!!

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  15. Very cool that you made your own though! We are going to try as well. I found your blog very interesting and informative.

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  16. Wow - making maple syrup is a lot of work - but I won't use anything other than the real thing.

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  17. I think it's awesome that y'all made something from start to finish. As with most things today, it does make one appreciate the processes that the "ol timers" had to go thru, that we now take for granted.

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  18. What a process - now I know why maple syrup is so expensive. That's a nice jar FULL! Very impressive Miss Tammy!

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  19. I was curious about part two, so happy to see it up today. I like that you tried it, and I like that you put the effort in to see it through to the end, despite it having been a lengthy process. What a neat experience to have, and you guys did it together (which is really cool)!

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  20. I have been excited to read part 11. I was thinking, "did you only get one quart?" The process was long but really interesting...I am glad to read this and hear your input....I feel much better about buying pure maple syrup at a high price now.... Before, I always felt I was paying to much until I have seen firthand the process. No wonder it is expensive. Enjoy what you have. Lesson learned. Thanks for sharing with us. Blessings!

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  21. Here in Vermont we boil eggs and hotdogs in maple syrup as it is boiling down.
    We also pour the hot syrup on snow and it turns to taffy (sugar on snow).
    My personal favorite is putting just the raw SAP (instead of water) into the coffee pot to make coffee, add a little cream and some maple syrup and you are TURBO CHARGED for the day! Maple butter and maple cream are excellant too.
    Keep experimenting!
    Come visit my Vermont herd when you have a chance: www.tailgait.blogspot.com

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  22. Hi Tammy, I was waiting for this post, how awesome that you went through all that process even if it was just like a learning experience! Next time I buy a bottle of syrup I'm going to be happy to pay what before this post, I thought it was a lot! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

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  23. LOVE it and chalk it up as a learning exp if you dont do the syrup thing anymore.... I for one admire you guys and this is just awesome... AND hey if your ever stranded out in the forest somewhere and you have some mean hotcakss on the griddle ..WELL by george you can make your own SYRUP for those cakes if you need too ... All joking aside that is awesome. I admire you guys for all you do . I love that ..I would love to be your neighbors.... HUGS and blessings wished your way always .... Sherry

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  24. Oh I really want us to do this! You made it look simple enough that I think we could tackle this!

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  25. Awesome that you guys tried it out! I would've never known the process if you guys hadn't made the syrup - thank you for sharing your experience!!

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  26. I think it's great that you guys did this:) It looks and (I'm sure) tastes fantastic. {one of my personal favorites for pancakes and on oatmeal}

    It is very expensive so if you are willing to go through the process .. and enjoyed it on the regular basis, it might be worth trying!!

    xxL

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  27. Congratulations on making your own! I want to try this at least once. Thanks for sharing the process!

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  28. That is what we decided, too, Tammy although it was fun finding out how to do it all.. And we could again if we had to..
    The tea looks comforting.. smile.. xo

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  29. Yay for you guys for doing this, great post! I Didn't realize either it was SO much work, gives me a whole new appreciation for it and I'll think of you next time I buy some.

    curious, did you knit the gloves?

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  30. Brilliant, thank you so much for writing this up.

    I has zero knowledge about maple syrup, and just thought it was expensive here because it was imported. I may actually treat myself to a bottle, and think of all your effort as I munch it on pancakes ;o)

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  31. That was a lot of time and effort but now you guys can say you have done it! We do have to pick and choose which homesteady endeavors are important to us and when it's easier to just buy something! :)

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  32. I did know it takes gallons and gallons to make a small amount of syrup -- proud of you guys!

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  33. I think it is so neat that you make your own syrup! I bet it is delicious on pancakes and waffles :)

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  34. It's a lot of work but there is nothing like it - few things in the world can compare. Great post! Great looking syrup.

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  35. We had similar questioning last year...if the work was worth it. Ours was a bit thin and not a strong taste...we needed to boil it down some more, I think. I think the biggest trick to speeding up the process is increasing the surface area so it absorbs faster. We had a couple wide shallow pans we did outside on the fire that we ended up using that made it faster than our initial try of a single small. I think practice and more practice is what we need to get it right..

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  36. Looks delicious! I would love to make our own syrup - we use it so much in cooking it would be a huge savings. We try to only buy local homemade, it's expensive but well worth it! :)

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  37. i bet it is delicious on pancakes. you, guys, are awesome for all your work and time you put into it.
    congrats on making your own! love maple syrup!

    big hugs~

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  38. This is one of those things that would be very cool to learn how to do, but not necessarily rely on yourself to do every time. We can't do everything ourselves!

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  39. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks for the great tutorial. I think I'll keep buying mine too. that's a LOT of work for a quart. I look forward to your next homesteading adventure.

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  40. My kids would LOVE to do this, but we can't find any SUGAR maple trees...or maybe we just can't identify maples from other maples? We've seen this process many times from various farms in the area and you're right - it tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the stuff from the store. No comparison!

    Thanks for linking this up to the Explorers Blog Hop!

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  41. I wish we had the trees to do this! It looks wonderful. For now, we just buy local maple syrup. Yum! It was great to have you share at Eco Kids Tuesdays, and I'm following now. I'm pining this to our board too: http://pinterest.com/pin/48554502204759305/

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  42. Thanks for the info! We don't have maple trees in our neck of the woods, but we do have birch. Might give it a try.

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  43. Wow, you guys are at it already? We have a couple of more weeks at least until we tap our trees. Thanks for the great post though, it is wonderful to see how other small homesteads make their own syrup.

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  44. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop.html

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  45. hey thanks for this - we tried it and it worked! here is a mention:
    http://adventuresinthegoodland.blogspot.com/2013/02/we-made-maple-syrup.html

    :-D

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  46. Yay!! We have maple trees and someday I so hope to do this! Thanks for the step-by-step tutorial! Pinning it for future reference. Thanks so much for sharing it with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Please come link up with us again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/fairy-finders-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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  47. Hi Tammy,
    I'm featuring your post on The HomeAcre Hop this week! Stop by this evening to grab the featured button!

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  48. Wow! Great tutorial. I wish we could find pure maple syrup for $7. Here in Pennsylvania, we pay $18. a quart for local syrup!! :-o

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