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How to make maple syrup
How I did it: Since I grew up doing this on our farm, it’s kind of a freebie I guess. But I HAVE made a point to make syrup on my own land as an adult. I bought a sheet of stainless and had it bent into a pan according to the design of my parents’ pan—a long, narrow, shallow pan with a “lip” on each side (into which 2×4 “handles” are slipped when it comes time to take the pan off the fire). With 125 taps in our sugarbush and two 200 gallon galvanized cattle tanks (never used by cattle, mind you!) for sap storage, we were in business!
Carrying the sap is a lot of work, but with that number of taps it is just do-able. Figure 30-40 gal of sap/gallon of finished syrup. We would boil when we had both tanks plus two 35 gal trash cans (never used by trash, mind you!) full of sap. Minus the head room, it was usually about 450 gallons of sap. If you do the math, you see that’s a lot of syrup! And since we’d usually get two or three or even four batches during a good run, we’d be stocked for years!
It’s a wonderful time of year, during the Sugar Moon. I love carrying sap at night, especially around the full moon. The snow reflects the moonlight so that it’s almost like daylight. It’s quiet and relatively warm. ... Ahhh! I even remember a couple spring evenings being out there walking on snowshoes and having a spring lightning storm come up! Absolutely so cool…
Lessons & tips:
- If you're going to do this routinely, get a hydrometer ... They are easy to use and it's worth it. No more guessing.
- You can make cheap but serviceable collecting buckets out of gallon plastic milk jugs. If you are diligent about washing them out at the end of the season, they'll last several years. We stored ours carefully, strung on a long piece of baling twine hung between a couple rafters in the garage.
- You can make metal hangers used to hang the milk jugs from the spiles.
- I've never tried to make the spiles ... more efficient just to buy them.
- I've always strained my syrup through cloth after cooking it down. This gets most of the niter out so it doesn't settle in the bottom of the jar.
There are a couple of great books out there, but my favorite is the one by Rink Mann.http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Sugarin-Complete-How-Guide/dp/0881502162