I have always been curious about how maple syrup is made. Every year around this time, my boss says, you should make maple syrup and blog about it, but I have always been too busy out on trips and hikes and exploring to give it a go.
I guess I should therefore thank my concussion for this years test run. I have been unfortunately spending a lot of time at home and as the trees are flowing with maple sap right now, I thought, this is the year I’m going to try and make some syrup!
I had plans to go hiking with my friend Eileen in Huntsville. Since I was heading to the city, I thought I would stop in at Home Depot and get a kit. I’ve been told you can get a starter kit with all the things you need so why not? Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stop at Home Depot before meeting up with Eileen and when I mentioned to her that I was going there after our hike and why, she said no way! Come to my place, we have all the stuff to make the syrup and this year we aren’t tapping our trees. WOW! What luck!
So after our hike, I followed Eileen to her house and her and her husband Dan loaded me up with maple syrup making gear. I took 5 buckets, 5 lids, 6 spiles (in case one broke or didn’t work), a book on making syrup and a quick start pamphlet. Oh! and they also lent me a big pot with a lid to boil it in. Super duper awesome!
I headed outside early the following day as it was Sunday. I had my drill, the suggested drill bit size, the buckets, the spiles (which I’ve been calling spiggots (woops) and the lids. I didn’t read the directions which was a mistake but after I put the first two in, I went back to take a look and found out I’d been doing things a bit wrong. Woops again. LOL.
One of the things I’d been doing incorrectly was putting the spile on too much of an angle so I used less of an angle on tree #3. I also wasn’t tapping the spiles into the tree with a hammer, but they didn’t really seem to need that, so I continued doing it without. That would haunt me later.
Everyday after work I would go outside and check my buckets. It was pretty cool that one day they would be empty, and then next completely full of sap. If they were, I would empty the buckets into some empty water jugs I’d had handy and put the empty bucket back up.
One very sad day, I went out to check the bucket recording a video, I lifted up the lid carefully with one hand while the other held my phone recording what was inside. It was the first time the bucket was full and I was elated, then the bucket dropped out of the tree before my eyes, hit the ground and it’s contents spilled out all over the ground. OHHH NOOOOOOOO!!!! Guess you can’t cry over spilled sap, just like milk right?
It was fun to check the buckets and see how the weather would make the trees run, or completely shut them down the trees.
As a cold front moved in a week after tapping the trees, many times the buckets looked like this. When they did, I took them inside and covered the top with foil and once they thawed out, I poured the sap into the jugs and then replaced the bucket on the trees.
Overall, I had a pretty decent haul for just a few weeks with a lot of cold weather thrown in.
I first started out filling these 4 liter jugs and the pot that Eileen lent me. After the first week, this is what I had collected.
When I checked the buckets after Easter weekend, I had to pour the bucket contents into a 18 liter water jug. It is now full along with 4 – 4 liter water jugs, 4 of the buckets which are also full, and the big pot that Eileen lent me. The next step is going to be turning the sap into syrup which I will attempt this weekend. I have decided to do it on the barbecue after researching my options and using the equipment that I have available to me. I picked up a full tank of propane for it the other day and will spend an entire (most likely) Saturday, sitting outside and boiling all the sap I’ve collected down into syrup.
I even went to Dollarama and picked up these cute glass jars, although I probably won’t need very many. I’ve been told that the ration from sap to syrup is 40:1. Hopefully, Sunday morning I’ll be eating some pancakes for breakfast with my own homemade maple syrup on them! Stay tuned to find out if I succeed or not in part 2 of Making Maple Syrup – For Dummies.
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Happy Maple Syrup Making!