Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Turning your sap into "liquid gold"

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!!!



23 comments:

  1. I have cooked 24 gal. sap inside the house. Open all your rooms and the window. LOL I always thought canning would kill all the good stuff in the syrup. I'm not canning mine as I wish to have all the good stuff in the syrup. Why do you can it? Mine will sit on the shelf till it's used. thanks for the posting as I want to do it outside at free or little expense. Deb

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    1. Canning does not hurt the syrup. Remember the syrup has to be brought to at least 220 degrees while boiling it down, so canning it does nothing to it! All the "good stuff" is still in there. We can ours as we make so much! LOL It is just one way to prepare it to last the whole year,IF it lasts that long!

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    2. I have no idea how high my temp. gets for the sap cooking down as I don't use a thermometer, just cook it till it starts to crystalize and then I strain it through cheesecloth and put it in a recycled glass jar. I guess I haven't known any other folks that can their syrup so don't know how it works. It doesn't matter how long it sits on the shelf, it'll be OK. I got some homemade for Christmas and it wasn't canned and was good almost 1 yr. later. kept it cool and dark till I used it. Showed hubby the post and we have used blocks we can use. Just need to get the pans to cook it in. We heat with wood so have plenty of it on hand. I will finsih it in the house I'm sure though. Not enough trees for a sugar shck and this can be disassembled when not in use. Was their a certain place ypou got the used pans? Deb

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    3. We got our pans from a restaurant supply place. They had new and used. We went with used because of cost. New ones are $$$.

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    4. I assume you're not using nonstick/coated pans?

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    5. Not sure LOL My hubby picked them up. I just know they are resturant serving trays.. stainless steal.

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  2. I miss good maple syrup being down here in the south! Thanks for sharing your post on Wildcrafting Wednesday. :)

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  3. This is excellent. I love your set up. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glad you like! Out set up may not be fancy but it gets the job done at a fraction of the price!

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  4. Hi again, Mindie. Just wondering what you use to store the sap in. Or do you boil it everyday during sap collection season? I would like to store it, and then boil it once I have a lot of it. I read that metal trash barrels have an oily residue, and that plastic trash barrels might release chemicals into the sap because they are not made of food grade plastic. What do you use? Thanks!

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    1. We use plain old 5 gallon buckets. When the flow isn't crazy we store it for about a week (boiling it down on weekends.) But you have to keep the temp tight on it so bacteria doesn't grow. We pack snow around out buckets if it warms a little. When it is peak flow.... we boil everyday till we are sick of doing it then pull the taps and give up LOL

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    2. OK, thanks. Guess I will have to boil it off gradually, as I have in the past. Believe it or not, in past years I've boiled up to 80 gallons of sap, all in my kitchen. It wasn't as bad as people say, as we have a fan over the stove. It did not make a sticky or wet mess in the kitchen at all. It just took a long time, but I did a little each day. This year I was hoping to store all the sap until the end of the tapping season, so I was looking for a large, food-safe, storage container.

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    3. In your kitchen!?!? LOL We got wet walls doing that. I have heard horror stories of people's wall paper coming off. LOL

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    4. I have so much static electricity in my house at the moment, I would be glad of the extra humidity of boiling down sap.

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    5. LOL Always look at the positive Robin!

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  5. If you go to grocery store, Walmart etc. where they make cakes, ask them for some used, empty icing buckets!. Clean well using 1 part bleach and 10 parts water solution to disinfect.

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  6. How do you add wood to your fire?

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    1. If you look at the photos, our evaporator is made with whole and half blocks. We simply pull a half block out to put more wood in.

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  7. Hi Mindie...thanks for your post. Picked up my cinderblocks yesterday. First time sugaring. Any chance you could post a picture showing how the vent pipe is connected to the blocks. And did you rig up any type of handles for your pans. I see super hot coals underneath two pans of 200+ degree sap. How do you get them off the fire (other than very carefully). Thanks.

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    1. We simply turned on of the block so the whole that goes through it is facing out and stuck the vent pipe through. As for the pans, I bought welding gloves :)

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  8. Hi Mindie, I enjoy your informative posts. I have had spikes for a couple of years but haven't used as I can't afford the buckets. But now I am going to do it since I learned from you a way to do it cheaper. My question is, how long do you hot water bath it? Is it the same for quarts as it is pints?

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    1. My hubby uses a pressure canner for 20 minutes to can ours

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