Maple Syrup

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larry_stewart

Master Chef
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Long Island, New York
This has always been a bucket list thing for me. Years ago, while vacationing in Vermont, we went on a Maple Syrup Hike. It was during the summer, so they just went through the motions to educate us, but I've always wanted to try it. Most of the Maple Syrup festivals or demo's near me are on Saturdays, and I work most Saturdays , so have never been able to coordinate it. No one in my family has a Maple Tree on their property. After doing some research, I found out, that although Sugar Maples are the ideal tree, other trees ( including other kinds of Maples) can produce a good product. I have one Red Maple, and another unknown Maple on the property, so last year , order a Maple Syrup Tapping Kit, which consisted of the taps, and ugly plastic buckets. ( Actually , I looked out the window last winter and saw sap dripping from where a branch attaches to the trunk of the Maple tree, and thats what trigger me to get the tapping kit. Anyway, I set everything up, and within a few days had a decent amount of sap. Instead of collecting it, I let it sit out there until more was produced. The lids on the buckets aren't air tight ( and definitely not bug tight) so by the time I went to collect the sap, there were dozens of bugs in it. I dont mind picking one or two out, but straining dozens out, I just wouldn't be able to get the image out of my head and enjoy the syrup, so I dumped it and made a note for the following year.
Fast forward to this year, I ordered another taping kit that consisted of bags that aren't as open as the buckets . Still ugly, but at least I can avoid he bug problem. I tapped both trees, and within a day I had about 2 quarts of sap. It's been relatively warm here the past few weeks. The temps need to fluctuate from above to below freezing for the sap to flow. Only had aa few days like that. I collected what I had ( the two quarts) and started to boil it down. I didnt mix the two tree saps. I wanted to see if there was a difference between the red and green leafed trees. Keep in mind that the sap to syrup ration is about 40:1 , which means that after boiling down the 2 quarts, could expect to get about 2 - 3 Tbs of syrup. Was it worth it??? Yep !!!
I tasted the raw sap first. looked and tasted like water. No hint of any sugar or sweetness. Tasted a little earthy, but not bad. Very clear. I did it at a slow medium temp. It took hours to boil down. As more sap evaporated , the liquid started to take on the physical properties of aa sugar water ( Which makes sense). The liquid started to bubble and retain its bubbles more. The consistency thickened/ more viscous. And in the last few minutes, started to get some color to it.
The first batch I may have over processed, cause when cooled, it resembled creamed honey. The second batch a didnt boil down as much. Both had a caramel taste to them. Absolutely delicious. Unfortunately , there jus wasnt much at all, but enough to dip a few slices of apple in. For those who have never tasted 'Real' Maple Syrup, it is so different than the artificial stuff, to the point where I don't even know how they got the flavor for the artificial stuff. When in Vermont, we got a Maple Syrup Sampler, where they broke it down to about 5 different gradients, based on the color ( and I assume how much they processed it).
I attached a few pics of the process. The Components, the tap in he tree, the bag hanging on the tree. he initial level of sap in the pan, a few pics at different stages of the boil down, the final whopping 2 - 3 Tbs ( separated by tree), and the victory pic of me dipping the apple in it. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I cant wait.
 

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making maple syrup.jpg

45 gallon drum as the fire box, stainless steel pan on top for boiling the sap. I believe there is a tap somewhere on the pan.
My parents boiling their sap. They had borrowed the contraption from a neighbour. Only did it a couple of times, a lot of hard work and hot, gotta keep the fire stoked the entire time.
 
Well, LOL they did have 40 or 60 acres (can't remember). Although I think my Mom had said the sap was just gathered from the trees closest to the house.

But as you say - that pan full did not produce enough to share!
 
I got 1/2 acre and 2 crappy trees that are just shy of the recommend size to tap ( But I couldn't wait) so I may have no trees next yer LOL thanks to my impatience.
 
@larry_stewart, I read an article in The Mother Earth News decades ago about making syrup from tree sap. It suggested freezing the sap first since water freezes before the syrup part. In fact, it's possible that the syrup doesn't actually freeze. Like I said, it was decades ago. :LOL: You can extract the ice blob, then boil down the syrup to the desired thickness.

When CWS used to come around, I remember her saying that she made syrup from various trees - one of which was birch. I have made apple syrup from cider- once. Lots of work (well, time) but delicious on pancakes.
 
Just be warned, according to a friend, Birch syrup is an acquired taste. LOL

Larry, canvas your neighbours! Some must have a couple of maple trees. Promise to share a couple of Tablespoons with them.
 
Larry, canvas your neighbours! Some must have a couple of maple trees. Promise to share a couple of Tablespoons with them.
One neighbor, down the block, has a beautiful tree right next to the street. Only problem is, she is one of ' those' neighbors. We all have one of them on the block. She has No Trespassing signs all over. She plants plastic flowers in the ground (I guess for year round color). She has plastic parrots in some of her trees. She also posts all kind of political hand made/ hand drawn signs (on the very tree Im talking about) Stapled to the tree. I'd sooner buy maple syrup than ask to use her tree.
 
my grandparents sugared - they owned roughly 60 acres in the Beaverkill Valley.
it takes an enormous amount of time and work...

takes 32-40 gallons of sap (year/weather/tree dependent aka sap sugar content) - those cute little buckets take a lot of emptying/hauling.... newer methods use plastic tubing strung tree to tree to collection. nice idea, until the squirrels/woodchucks/chipmunks figure out what's inside the tubing.

cutting/splitting the firewood to boil down gallons and gallons of sap is not an afternoon's task... and one cannot just "crank up the heat" to make it go faster or you'll burn the sugar.

I've heard of the freezing technique - and also from old timers that 'it works, but it's not the same stuff' - never had any that I know of.
 
My son started a new job last year. The owner cooked down his own maple syrup and had it available for $14/qt. I bought 2. We've used about 1/2 of one. The rest is in the freezer. It's a very smokey maple syrup and we quite like it.
 
blissful, I don't think you need to freeze it. It is a preservative in its own right - SUGAR!
As long as the container is not opened, cool pantry should be just fine.

A neighbour down the road from the farm sold his maple sugar. Sooo good, will have to make a trip back there and get some.
 

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