So you decided to tap some trees and you have collect some sap in order to make your own maple syrup. (Learn how to do that here)
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Making your own maple syrup is a great family project and the rewards are oh so sweet. But now you have all this sap, what do you do with it all? Well first and foremost, DO NOT BOIL IT DOWN IN YOUR HOUSE!!!! Think about it.... if it takes 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup, where are those other 39 gallons going? If you boil it in your kitchen, all over your walls! If you are trying to remove wallpaper then by all means boil in your house, otherwise, boil outside.
Over the past couple years we have improved upon our system of boiling down sap. This year we were very happy with the sap evaporator we built out of some simple and low coast items.
We bought two used restaurant serving trays from a supply shop for $15 a piece. We then hit our home improvement store for cinder blocks. We bought eight 8x8x16 and eight 8x8x8 blocks. We simply staggered the sizes on each level to give us a nice sturdy structure. We also picked up some furnace vent pipe to make a chimney to vent the smoke away from the sap. I mean no one wants smoke flavored syrup. For brick and pipe we spent $20. So if you add it all up, we built a sap evaporator (which we can use year after year) for about $50. Not to bad if I do say so myself!
Now you could use propane to boil down your sap, but we did it the old fashion way. Don't get me wrong, propane is great, but wood is cheaper and more traditional. So how long does it take to boil down sap you wonder? Well it depends on two things....
First, how much sap you have collected and second, how hot you get your fire! With the wide low pans it boils fast. We simply keep adding in more sap as the water evaporates off. That is not smoke in the photo on the left, but steam! To finish off your sap/syrup you need to be at about 220 degrees. When it start to look darker and greasy, your there!
Once we have our finished syrup we run it through cheese cloth a few times before filling canning jars. We do a simple water bath canning on our jars of syrup and it is done! Once the jars cool, make sure you shake them. The moisture on the underside of the lid needs to be mixed back into the syrup so you do not get mold. If canned right, syrup can last a year unopened. Once opened your maple syrup will be good for about six months in the fridge, if it lasts that long!
And don't stress out if once you get it canned, you don't think it was done, because you can always open the jars and boil the syrup down more. And if you get sediments in the bottom of your jars know as sugar sands, you can always just let your jars settle and then pour off the top syrup in to new jars and re-can them if you want.
Once your family, friends and neighbors know what your up to, you will become the most popular kid on the block. Maple syrup is pure liquid gold!!!