Friday, April 18, 2008

Maple Syrup Making

Here is the long awaited showing of the making of maple syrup from beginning to end.
(or close to the beginning-I suppose I could have gotten pictures of Dan and I walking around and tapping the trees and sterilizing all of our equipment, but I can't go back in time)

As the bags on the trees start to fill up we go collect the sap. Some days there is almost nothing in the bags and other days the bags have to be collected twice. It just depends on how the sap is running that day.

We bring the collected sap to a lean to that is next to our shop where we put it in big blue barrels until we are ready to start boiling down a batch. The stove you see was the stove in our house when I was growing up. When Dan and I got married we bought one of those glass top stoves and this one was put outside just for the purpose of boiling down sap. I have also made supper on it on occasion when the power has been out as it is a gas stove and I can used a match to light the burners.

Here is the sap in the barrel. You can see that it looks just like water. Sap is essentially sugar water and as you boil it down the water evaporates and eventually it gets to become syrup.

This is the sap boiling down. The white line that goes across the top of the pan is where the level of the sap started. We start out by putting about 15 gallons of sap in the pan and keep adding sap as it boils down until we have put in about 40 gallons of sap and have boiled it all down until there is about an inch of liquid left in the pan.

Then we strain it while it is still boiling hot through two kinds of straining material. It goes into a smaller stock pot that we will bring into the house to finish off the syrup.

This is the syrup when it is nearly ready. We bring it back up to the boiling point and start to can it when a hydrometer floats at just the right level.

I wash all the jars and then put them in an inch of hot water in a 200 degree oven to keep them sterilized while the syrup is boiling.

I also put the jar lids into water and keep them in boiling water while we wait for the syrup to be ready. (I realize that the water isn't boiling at this point, but it did start boiling not too long after I took this picture--I had to keep my focus on making sure the syrup didn't boil over onto my nice stove.)

We pour the syrup into jars, put on the lids, and screw on the twisty part of the lids. Then we wait to hear them seal. The lids make a popping noise as they seal just like the popping noise that is made when you open up an airtight jar. Normally when you can you have to put things into a canner for 20-30 minutes, but because we keep everything sterilized and the sap is boiling when you can it (as well as the whole sugar content on the syrup) the jars seal up and are well sterilized.

All of our syrup this year has been a lovely amber color. Sometimes it can be much darker. Darkness in color can be attributed to lots of different factors. Sometimes it bets darker because of the sugars getting burnt during the cooking process, but some years the sap is also less clear because of weather stuff that I don't fully understand.

Hope you enjoyed looking at all the pictures and learning about how maple syrup is made. When you go to the store and look at the prices of maple syrup as compared to that other syrup stuff you will probably understand why there is such a difference. (Of course real maple syrup tastes tons better than the fake stuff, too. I have been blessed to have only rarely have to taste the other stuff. My parents started making maple syrup when they first moved out to our place and now Dan and I are carrying on the tradition and even making enough that we will be able to sell a couple jars at either the local farmer's market or the gallery)


ikkinlala said...

It's nice to see how things are run in a smaller operation these days (most of the stuff I've read is either historical or about mechanized equipment). I wish we had maples - we tried making birch syrup one year, but it didn't turn out very good.

Knittymama said...

It's such a fun process! Our five year old just spent a Saturday with his grandpa and neighbor making syrup. I was jealous I had to miss it.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I've always wondered how it was done--having lived in the Pacific Northwest all my life--and now I feel like I've taken a grand peek inside a wonderful experience. Thanks!