03-09-2015, 04:06 PM
#1
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It is time for "sugaring", as the locals call it, or making maple syrup. I posted a pictorial before but started with the sap collection.

But first you have to tap the trees. Today was 45F and sunny. Just beautiful out. There is still a 3 foot snow pack on the ground. We probably should have wore snowshoes but didn't. 
It was slow going as we slogged through the woods.


This is me with the sap buckets, lids, a hand drill and a hammer ready to go.
[Image: L8yN3d6.jpg]


I use a treasured tool to make a hole in the tree. It is my fathers hand drill or brace. It is older than me. 
The hole should be on the south side of the tree so the sun can help the sap flow. You place the fresh hole at least 6" from last years hole. The old holes seal up and you have to look hard to see them.
[Image: fOP8xYa.jpg]


 Our taps are cast aluminum and have a hook to mount the sap collection bucket.
[Image: dtH4K1g.jpg]


Once the hole is drilled you use a hammer to insert the tap.
[Image: h6wTpP7.jpg]


This is the tap in the trunk of the sugar maple
[Image: UgEs7YL.jpg]


Once the tap is inserted my wife hangs the bucket and puts a lid over it. The lid is not required but keeps any rain and debris out of the sap.
[Image: TArFVP0.jpg]



My wife took this pic of one of the sap buckets. I like how she framed it with the white birches. The "s" was spray painted on to help us find the right trees.
[Image: WquomHG.jpg]



Lastly is a pic to get an idea of the amount of snow we had. This is me getting ready to climb back up over the plow pile to get to the driveway.
[Image: GyiP1vU.jpg]
I stepped in the footprints I made going into the woods or else I would never have been able to climb back up.


I had hoped the sap would be running but only one tree was wet at the drill site. We will collect all week and then boil down this weekend.

Phil

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 03-09-2015, 04:26 PM
#2
  • freddy
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Great photos, Phil.  Looking forward to pics of the final product. Smile

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 03-09-2015, 05:31 PM
#3
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Very nice idea! Love the pics and the fun you have with your family!

From my Tab through the Tap

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 03-09-2015, 08:30 PM
#4
  • Jovan
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Thanks for sharing Phil.  I know it looks easy but maple syrup is a lot of work and love.  Good luck.

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 03-09-2015, 08:51 PM
#5
  • evnpar
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  • Portland, Oregon
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Thanks, Phil. I can't wait to see the process from beginning to end. What a treat to have pancakes at your house with your own maple syrup.

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 03-10-2015, 09:23 AM
#6
  • mikeperry
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(03-09-2015, 04:06 PM)PhilNH5 Wrote: It is time for "sugaring", as the locals call it, or making maple syrup. I posted a pictorial before but started with the sap collection...

Hi Phil

Woo! Hoo! Spring must be on its way Aaaaa

I love seeing these Maple Syrup threads you share with us here Thumbup

For those interested, here are a couple of Maple Syrup threads Phil has previously posted, well worth a read IMHO. Maple Syrup thread part I and Maple Syrup thread part II

Take care, Mike

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 03-22-2015, 08:56 AM
#7
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It has been an odd winter. After 2 weeks we only had 10 gallons of sap to boil down. 


We empty the sap buckets on the trees into white 5 gallon buckets we scrounged for free from the local pizza parlor.
[Image: m5IznHw.jpg]

Ice in the bucket is actually a good thing. Due to a phenomenon called "freezing point depression" the sugary sap does not freeze as readily as water. So the frozen chunk of ice is almost pure water. The sap left in the bucket has a higher percentage of sugar meaning less time to boil it down. We discard the ice.
[Image: n9qMKDQ.jpg]

Yesterday morning (Saturday 3/21/15) we checked the buckets during a light snow. I like this pic of the snow on the bucket lid.
[Image: I3Ky3i9.jpg]


My wife collecting sap.
[Image: hiID5Cu.jpg]

One of our tapped trees is by the mailbox and easy to reach.
[Image: ThmRFwe.jpg]


Sap from sugar maples contains about 4% sugar. Syrup is about 67% sugar. To go from sap to sugar you simply boil off the excess water.
We boil down over an open fire. I use pieces from an old wood stove to support an oven grate. This holds the 2 lasagna pans we boil the sap in.
As it was snowing we set up under the garage overhang.
[Image: vWogu1C.jpg]


The fire is burning and the sap is steaming.
[Image: CCBnwsj.jpg]


You need to skim off the foam that forms during the boil down process. It is made up of insoluble materials and is called "niter". It is harmless - if you do not remove it your finished syrup will be cloudy.
[Image: ftOtenc.jpg]

My wife and I 
[Image: tXZ6kwl.jpg]

The day turned into a beautiful day after the snow stopped. My wife made a second run to collect sap. Here you can see her coming out of the woods.
[Image: QP9lij1.jpg]


It is a family event and my daughter and dogs joined us.
[Image: lI0LJMb.jpg]

Foxy keeping an eye on everything from the top of the plow pile.
[Image: 6CUBYPQ.jpg]

When the syrup is reduced enough we filter it through paper towels. It is not yet syrup. I will finish it off in the house where I can control the temperature better.
[Image: MuNjdir.jpg]


In the house it is cooked until the desired consistency. It is filtered one more time through coffee filters.
[Image: Tutnzcs.jpg]

Then it is reheated and poured into sterilized jars. These are decorative jars that had store bought syrup in them. I am reusing them.
[Image: gXmUYsQ.jpg]

The final product about 14 ounces of syrup.
[Image: UD3oJ5v.jpg]

Even the dogs like maple syrup. 
[Image: DxGYkS6.jpg]


Phil

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 03-22-2015, 09:02 AM
#8
  • freddy
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Great photos, Phil, and I really enjoyed being walked through the process.  By the way, love the chapeau you're wearing in that picture of Mary Lou and you. Biggrin

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 03-22-2015, 09:36 AM
#9
  • evnpar
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  • Portland, Oregon
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Thanks, Phil. I'll appreciate my maple syrup much more, now that I've seen the process. 

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 03-23-2015, 10:13 AM
#10
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Phil, it sure seems like you all had a great time! Ahhh! Maple syrup!

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 03-23-2015, 10:38 AM
#11
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Great post, it made me feel like I was there.

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 03-23-2015, 11:00 AM
#12
  • Thug
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Thanks for sharing. A fascinating process and a great pictorial.

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 03-23-2015, 01:50 PM
#13
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Phil, that pictorial doesn't even come close to portraying the work involved with traditional sugaring. But I liked it all the same, please don't take it as disparaging.

Folks, if you've never lugged buckets of water through deep snow, you simply have no idea what that final maple syrup is worth!

FWIW, that's the genuine 100% maple syrup. It has a huge boil down as you can see. The vast majority that's bought in the supermarket is an artificially flavored and colored sugar syrup with 3% real maple syrup (WOW! a whole 3%!) .

I prefer grade B because it has better flavor but it isn't as pretty, but no producer has told me why they get grade B. It just happens magically I guess. Grade A is what most folks know. I seek out the grade B.

Oddly enough when my nephews were young and would come up they preferred the market type synthetic syrup. More of the good stuff for me. :-)

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 03-23-2015, 02:16 PM
#14
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Hmmm... I have maple trees in my back yard.... Argh.  I've got too many hobbies already.

Nicely done, Phil.

Out of curiosity, how many trees do you tap?

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 03-23-2015, 02:45 PM
#15
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Brian, you need sugar maples whose sap has 3% sugar. If you have red maples it's closer to 1% and you'd need to boil down a lot more sap for a return. For a sugar maple I think it's something like 30 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

It the autumn, do the leaves turn red or yellow on your maples? Red leaves mean red maple.

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 03-23-2015, 05:03 PM
#16
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(03-23-2015, 01:50 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: Phil, that pictorial doesn't even come close to portraying the work involved with traditional sugaring. But I liked it all the same, please don't take it as disparaging.

Folks, if you've never lugged buckets of water through deep snow, you simply have no idea what that final maple syrup is worth!

FWIW, that's the genuine 100% maple syrup. It has a huge boil down as you can see. The vast majority that's bought in the supermarket is an artificially flavored and colored sugar syrup with 3% real maple syrup (WOW! a whole 3%!) .

I prefer grade B because it has better flavor but it isn't as pretty, but no producer has told me why they get grade B. It just happens magically I guess. Grade A is what most folks know. I seek out the grade B.

Oddly enough when my nephews were young and would come up they preferred the market type synthetic syrup. More of the good stuff for me. :-)

Brian,
It is a labor of love. But it is also great family time. We get outside every day to check the taps. As we trudge through the snow we discuss the sap run, speculate on which tree will yield the most, plan our next boil down session, look for signs of wildlife, etc. It is a break from the real world worries as we slip into "sugar time" where our labors and thoughts revolve around the sap run - a much more sedate rhythm than our normal pace.

My wife and daughter are equal partners in this endeavor. They eagerly partake in all the work you mention. The kicker is that neither likes real maple syrup. They both only eat the supermarket fake stuff. I thank them throughout the sugaring process and every time we have pancakes/waffles thereafter Biggrin

Phil

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 03-23-2015, 05:09 PM
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(03-23-2015, 02:16 PM)Shannon Wrote: Hmmm... I have maple trees in my back yard.... Argh.  I've got too many hobbies already.

Nicely done, Phil.

Out of curiosity, how many trees do you tap?

Shannon's Brian,
We only have 5 sugar maples ( he typed forlornly). I spent a summer scouting our property looking for sugar maples. Only found the 5. I marked them with a spray painted "S" as I would never be able to identify them in the dead of winter. But now we know the 5 by heart.

Sap and therefore syrup output is highly variable. We have been doing this for 15 years. The least amount of syrup we ever made was 20 ounces and the most was just shy of a gallon at 120 ounces. That is for the typical 3 or 4 week sugaring season.

Phil

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 03-23-2015, 05:51 PM
#18
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Interesting, Phil! I am not real certain of I have ever had any, I really don't think so.

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 03-23-2015, 05:59 PM
#19
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(03-23-2015, 02:45 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: Brian, you need sugar maples whose sap has 3% sugar. If you have red maples it's closer to 1% and you'd need to boil down a lot more sap for a return. For a sugar maple I think it's something like 30 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

It the autumn, do the leaves turn red or yellow on your maples? Red leaves mean red maple.

You'd think it would be easy to remember because I have to rake the whole yard every week in fall because of the dang things... I want to say that they're yellow. But I also want to say that I figured out that they were silver maples at some point. Maybe I'll check the buds or figure it out when they get leaves.

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 03-23-2015, 06:41 PM
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This is hands down the coolest thing I have read all day. Thanks for sharing Phil!


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