Fri Oct 06, 2006 1:57 pm
Always been interested in making maple syrup. Anyone on here ever done it? What's involved? Brandon.
Fri Oct 06, 2006 5:43 pm
Yes did it many years ago when I was in high school. One of our problems was that squirels would be attracted to the cooker. Once ypu start the fires you need to keep tjem going 24/7. Took lots of wood. But then we had one section of woods. Spent a lot of time running a JD B or behind a JD B collecting sap. Have to be careful about green sap. As the weather warms up the sap takes on a greenish tint. Cold nights and warm days works best. Best to confirm all this by reading or comparing notes. Boy did the stuff taste good. Got a pretty penny or two selling the stuff.
Have at it.
Fri Oct 06, 2006 7:31 pm
What's involved - a lot of hard work! I look back now on my youth with lots of fond memories of "sugar makin'." My parents made maple surup from the time I was 3 or 4 until well after I graduated college. Trust me, it involves a lot of hard work. And in Kentucky, you may be to far south for a very long season. You will probably warm up to quick.
Good, reliable, basic information is located here:
Look it over and go for it. Nothing tastes like eggs boiled in the flue pan! Better yet are the hot dogs!!! I can still savor the taste.
Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:23 am
I am about 10 miles north of Lexington. I try to make syrup at least every other year. The best time seems to be around Martin Luther King day. Up here that is nearing the end of sap running. I use a piece of 1/2 inch copper pipe as a spiggot. I drill in the tree about 2 inches and insert the pipe just past the bark. Two nails driven above the pipe will hold a bucket. I don't cover the bucket but I use an old milk strainer to get out any foreign matter. My cooker is a 50 gallon stainless steel pot. After I put the sap in the pot it is just a matter of keeping the fire going. I am not real precise with my cooking. I finish the syrup in the kitchen where I can watch it more closely. Don't cook off the sap in the house or every thing inside will be damp! You will have the best syrup you have tasted.
Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:09 am
Silverta16- My family sugars here in Vermont, right now just helping family friends with their operation. We have about 5000 taps and boil on a 5 X 14 evaporator, fired with wood. A lot of wood! On a big day, we will burn 4-5 cords, the logs being cut 4 feet long, for the most part. The sap is also run through a reverse-osmosis machine before boiling, which raises its sugar content from 2-4% up to about double that. Our season runs from early March through mid April, depending on the year and the amount of snow on the ground and the frost in it. Our taps are about 70% on pipeline and 30% in traditional buckets, mounted on a tap in the tree.
If you just want a little fun for the family, a big pot or a large steamer tray over a gas or wood fire should do the trick. Expect lots of time, as 40 gallons of sap produces about a gallon of syrup. This ratio will probably be worse in your southern clime, as your trees will produce sap with a lower sugar content. Watch out for over-boiling. The sap has become syrup when it boils between 217-220. If you go much over, it will crystalize. If you go under (too thin) it will explode cans or could go rancid.
We expect each tap in Vermont to produce around a quart of syrup in an average year, but you may want to count on a little less if the season is shorter.
If I can answer any questions, feel free to PM me, or I'll try to address them here.
Wed Oct 18, 2006 1:52 pm
Do you just bring it to a boil? How long do you let it boil? It would take me a while to collect 40 gallons of sap, can you store the sap till you have enough to make? I'm going to try it one of these days. Brandon.
Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:06 pm
Brandon, do you have Sugar Maple trees (Acer saccharum)? They are the only ones that produce sap that can be made into maple syrup.
Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:38 pm
Yes and no. Sugar maples will make the best syrup and have by far the highest sugar content in the sap, but black maples, norway maples and red (or soft, swamp) maples will also do the trick. You just have to boil away a lot more water relative to the amount of sugar. Flavor will not be quite the same. More important is how each tree "runs" or allows sap flows in certain weather. Sugar maples raise sap into the tree in warmth and lower it in freezing temperatures, and (roughly) it's only as it passes the tap that you get a run. With red maples, the sap will usually start later, run like hell once or twice and be done, which limits the season and makes it much more work, if you're trying to make lots of syrup. They also heal the taps differently. We just pass them by where they occur in our sugarbush.
As for time boiling, depends on how fast you can boil away the water. It's not done until it gets to the right temperature, which is actually an approximation of the right density, or the amount of sugar it contains per volume. You always want a full-on rolling boil.
You can store sap for a limited period, but being a sugary liquid it goes bad (starts to ferment) pretty quickly. Unless it's very cold, it will be rancid and begin to yellow in about 24 hours. You can still make syrup out of it, but you'll get a bitter taste and a very dark color (grade). If you use a pot or cauldron, your syrup will be very dark to begin with anyway. Ideally, the evaporator will run very shallow, and sap will move through it very quickly to preserve lighter colors and milder taste.
By the way- gathering sap in a sugarbush (other regions call this a maple "orchard") is a great activity for a Cub in places farther south. Someone in the past posted a great photo of their gathering tank, made our of an old potato cart. In Vermont, we often have to tap the trees on snowshoes, as it's too deep, even for the biggest tractors, and when the snow melts, the mud is too deep for small rigs. A Cub would be a permanent fixture until June! Hence, an advantage of the pipeline. And of 200 horse four-wheel drive modern tractors.
As for volume, you can make syrup with any amount of sap, you just end up with less when you're done! To give you an idea of what "worth it" is for us, we don't fire the evaporator unless we have at least 1500 gallons of sap, as it would just be getting going when we run out.
Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:32 pm
Thanks for the clarification, Rusty. Sugar maples are the only trees used around here (western MD) for syrup.
Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:12 am
Same here, unless you have flatlanders in your tapping crew. Then I've see red (soft) maples tapped, along with ash trees, beach trees and the occasional telephone pole.
After hunting season ends and Christmas passes, sugar season is the next high spot in the year!
Thu Oct 19, 2006 10:37 am
Sounds like I just need to buy my syrup off you guys! Brandon.
Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:37 pm
My kids and I tapped the maple trees in our backyard 5 or 6 years ago as my son's science project. We hung gallon milk jugs on the metal tubes we bought from the county agricultural office, hammering them into the trees after drilling 7/16" holes. Don't recall we collected more than 5 gallons of sap, and boiled it off on our gas BBQ grill. As mentioned, the yield was about 40:1 - we ended up with about a quart of syrup. As I recall, you watch the temperature as you go . . .as the water boils off the temperature rises slowly at first, and then more rapidly. When you reach the endpoint temperature, it's begun to thicken.
It was alot of work. . . a really labor intensive process. Was it worth it? The flavor of real maple syrup was like nothing I ever had before. . . it was terrific. And to make it from your own trees was a great feeling. We haven't done it again since . . . we keep saying we'll do it this year . . . but we haven't. But my kids remember it. Store syrup sure never tasted the same again. Seems like I read somewhere that Aunt Jermima syrup contains 2% true maple syrup, Log Cabin 5%, and Mrs. Butterworth has none at all.
Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:12 am
My wife knows that anything but pure Vermont maple syrup in our house is grounds for divorce! If it isn't real, I don't insult the pancakes with it, even at a friend's house. On the rare occasions I end up out for breakfast with someone, I stick toward the bacon/eggs/potatoes side of the menu.
By the way- the "real" syrup they put in Log Cabin and such is usually the real dregs you coudn't sell retail. Often, this is the product of the last run of the season, when the sap is yellowed (because the trees are already budding), and has been too warm for too long (worked). We always laugh because the "Vermont Maid" syrup is one of the few that actually has no real maple whatsoever....
Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:44 am
Is "real" maple syrup sweet. I've been raised on store bought, love how sweet it is. I went to Cracker Barrell, ordered some pancakes, didn't like their syrup it was supposed to be real maple? I love pancakes though. Brandon.
Mon Oct 23, 2006 11:33 am
Brandon, you come up to Cubfest 2007 in Ohio in June, and I'll bring you some real maple syrup.
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