Friday, March 8, 2013

Maple Syrup Experiment

Maple syrup is one of those things that seem like a big lofty idea.  Of course you need all those fancy taps and buckets and a boiler and the sugar shack.  So, huge overhead for something that takes 40 gallons (or more) to make a gallon of syrup, right?  Well, that's probably how you are supposed to do it.  You are probably supposed to have a maple grove too.

I'm bad at listening.  I thought it'd be fun to tap the 4 maples around our house and just see what happened.  I figured I might be 4 gallons of sap, which would be about a cup of syrup.  A one time adventure where we can have homemade maple syrup with our homemade pancakes.  

I love a good surprise too.  We are getting about 2-3 gallons of sap out of those 3 of the 4 trees that are actually the right kind of maple.  (good experiments have a margin of error, apparently one of our trees was the wrong kind).  I've been boiling down most of it on the stove in my kitchen in my big stainless steel canner.  Boy, that thing was a great investment!  Most of it, I'm boiling on the stove, then overnight I put it in my oval crock pot to slowly evaporate off  overnight so I don't have to babysit the pot and we still make progress.  Also the slower evaporation lets my house dehumidify some, because when  you are boiling off gallons of water it really creates a lot of humidity.  

This has been a fun experiment.  The first 4 gallons we boiled down and we got just under a pint of maple syrup/sugar/whatever.  I think we over boiled it.  It was still great on pancakes.  I've still got sap coming and it's boiling now.  The first batch came out kind of light, this one I think will be darker and hopefully I'll get the consistency right.  Any way you look at it, I think it's been a great experiment so far.   Our 9 acre lot has a lot of "untapped" resources, including lots of maple trees so we've decided to head out there if we haven't sold the place and mark the maples for tapping next spring.  There are a lot of maples out there, hopefully a good number of right ones at the right diameter to make it worth our trouble.  

The kit I ordered was on Amazon.  I'm not an Amazon affiliate so I get nothing out of this link.  It's just the cheapest set up I've found.  We used empty milk jugs and hair ponytail holders to hold them up.  This is really easy stuff.  There's a good chance we'll order better quality components for next year's tapping, but these plastic ones worked great.  This seems to me like one of those things that would be a good learning lesson for know, this is where maple syrup comes from.  I'm always looking for ways to teach my son new things, but he's not even 4 yet so who knows how much of what I do now will stick.

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