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Thread: Maple syrup!

  1. #21

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    According to what I've read, "just repeating what I've heard", Besides the tree species the time of year is crucial. Once the tree begins to grow at the start of the season the sap becomes too bitter or disagreable in some way for use as syrup. There is a small window in late winter for gathering sap for high quality syrup, around 6 weeks. You want below freezing temps at night and above 40 temps in the day.

    Black and sugar maples start growing the latest in the season as compared to others which gives a longer season, this along with the higher sugar content and lower sugar sand content make them preferable for commercial syrup production. Longer season, more efficient use of fuel, and less problems refining it after the fact.

    Lots of literature out there focuses on the commercial aspect of syrup production, but doesn't take into account the guy like me who is just looking to make a quart or two for fun.


  2. #22

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    Welp, after 5 days and 3 taps I've got between 10 and 12 gallons of sap, my 56 qt cooler is filled 2" from the top. Still tastes good so hopefully it hasn't spoiled. I'll be boiling it down tomorrow and hopefully finishing it off.

    The weather has been above freezing the past two days and nights and the sap has slowed dramatically. I only got 2 gallons yesterday, and only a half gallon today outta 3 taps. My best day was 4 gallons. The 10 day forecast shows only one night barely below freezing, so the run might be over.

    I went for a long hike today, 12-14 miles, and ran outta water on the way out. About 5 miles in I was gettin pretty thirsty. I wittled a spile out of a sumac branch, gouged a hole in a box elder w' my knife, stuck the spile in, propped my pop bottle to the spile and on the way back had 1 pint of sap in about 2 hours time, refreshing after a long hike.

    Just messin around I made 3 spiles, one from sumac, another from elderberry and a third from some type of tall reed grass. The reed grass was the easiest as it was already hollow, but was real fragile. The elderberry didn't have a lot of pith like I'm used to and kinda broke up as I tried to hollow it out. The sumac hollowed out easy with just a stick and a lil help of the knife.

  3. #23
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Good information all around. Thanks. Worth some rep in my book.

  4. #24
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I don't know if you've seen this or not.

    http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser...ple_index.html

  5. #25
    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    Once the tree begins to grow at the start of the season the sap becomes too bitter or disagreable in some way for use as syrup
    what happens, or at least part of what happens, is that as soon as the active growing season begins [when sunlight is sufficient], the tree consumes a large portion of stored sugars from the sap, so the concentrations drop off dramatically.

    as new vegetative growth builds, large amounts of of sap are accumulated in the leafy growth and the trunk's moisture content is lowered, resulting in slower sap flow.

    both of these things hinder sugaring, though i'm sure i don't have any kind of full understanding of how it all works.
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  6. #26

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    Thanks for the info Rick and Canid, and YCC. i think I have seen that link. It might be the one YCC posted earlier. I have quite a few links and will post the good ones when I finish. Took some pics of the process and will try to post them as well.

    Started with 10 gallons at 11 am and now I'm down to about 5. Half way there.

    The coleman dual burner stove works good. It will simmer the sap, but it's hard to get a good rolling boil. Boiling point here was 211.5 so once she hits 218.5 she's done, I think. LOL!

  7. #27

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    http://s101.photobucket.com/albums/m...in%20Michigan/

    I put together a lil pictorial on PB, but it or I scrambled the order of the pics.

    They are numbered 1-16 though for anyone interested, just some pics of the stages and stuff I used with notes below em describing some of the more important stuff. It's a pretty easy thing to do, more fun than anything. Not a lot of physical work!

    It took me just under 11 hours start to finish, but the process could be sped up a lot and I wasn't in a hurry. I simmered the sap for the most part, but coulda boiled it much harder. I'm sure after a couple times doin it the time could be cut in half. Less runnin back and forth, more efficient use of fuel and time, yada yada yada. I wasn't goin for records or efficiency though, just out having fun on the warmest day of the year. It almost hit 70 today!

    The hardest or stressful part for me was right at the end trying to keep the sap from cooking too much or boiling over. It takes so long to get it down, but once it does it's over in minutes or even seconds. The temp starts climbing and the boiling bubbles get smaller and smaller until it's foam. You can really see the transformation from sap to syrup based on the way it boils and comes off the spoon. A candy thermometer or other method would be nice, but I'm pretty sure you can tell when it's done just by the look of it.

    The 40:1 ratio held true. Mine was 42 to 1. I started with 10.5 gallons and ended up with one full quart, with 1/4" headspace, of medium amber colored syrup. Pretty! It's very sweet and mild. So I, or ma nature musta done somethin right. In the mason jar it looks almost identical to the sumac tea I made last year.

    Next year I'll be making gallons if nature cooperates and I have the time. I need to look into a better and more economical way to pre heat the sap, and filter the syrup once complete. I used cheesecloth, but don't think it did too much filtering and was expensive. I've read you can use cotton t-shirts, pillow cases, etc. to filter it quite well. There were lots of small whitish chunks floating throughout the sap.

    The cheesecloth did remove a lot. I guess it doesn't really need filtering as you can let the particles settle and pour off the good stuff. But, if ya wanna can it, give it away or sell it, filtering is a good idea. I did not know this, but syrup can go bad and it's best canned and stored in the freezer for long term. I canned mine, but will be opening it up real quick. I don't think it's gonna have time to spoil.

    My cost was about 11 bucks. Two packs of cheesecloth, a big aluminum pan, electricity for the stove in the house, and about 10 pints of gasoline for the coleman. Next year the only cost will be fuel and my time.

    Anyway, here's a few links I thought were helpful, some have some pretty detailed or different info about the science of it all, history, etc.

    http://www.massmaple.org/treeID.html

    http://www.mi-maplesyrup.com/Activit...s_homemade.htm

    http://ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/0036.html

    The Minnesota or Wisconsin Maple Associations had some good info as well, along with Maine and Vermont, but I don't have the links to them. If'n you're interested Google away! It seems like each producing state has it's own assn and website, and each has slightly different info. Of course Youtube has a bunch of videos, but most aren't too detailed, are too detailed, or they deal more with the commercial aspect of it all. On a side note, I wish the youtubers would just post the videos and not add irritating music or other bizarre effects.
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  8. #28
    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    i plan to buy one of these, since i need it anyway:

    http://www.acehardwaresuperstore.com...99.html?ref=42
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  9. #29
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Well done rwc - great pictures and explanation.
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canid View Post
    i plan to buy one of these, since i need it anyway:

    http://www.acehardwaresuperstore.com...99.html?ref=42
    I picked up one of those last week. It was curb side and being thrown out. Lots of rust and needs a new hose, but hope to get it working.
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  11. #31
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    I really wish I could give you more rep for this, but the system won't allow it. Very worthy of rep in my opinion. Thanks so much for putting this info up for us. It goes right along with "wilderness comforts" in my book. Wouldn't your sumac tea taste a bit better if sweetened?
    Really awesome rwc. Thanks again.
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  12. #32
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I think this is one outstanding tutorial. You did an awesome job on it.

    I suppose the next thing is for you to invite all of us over, fix pancakes and let up sample it. Right?

  13. #33
    Senior Member nell67's Avatar
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    Great job rwc! I have not gotten to try my hand at syruping due to repeatedly being called in on my days off.

    The neighbor here pours the syrup into barrels and let them sit for a bit before bottleling,maybe to allow the sediment to settle?? I don't know,thinking maybe I should book a working holiday with them and learn their process.
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  14. #34
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    Looks like RWC has some of that spectacular aura going on. Great post - I have to spread the love, but it looks as though others are sharing it with some positive rep.


    Now - when are we coming over for pancakes?
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  15. #35
    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
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    Haha! I now know the genus of the tree and have ordered 6 saplings to put in my little woods. Not sure at what age these trees have to be to start tapping, but if I don't get the benefit, Winnie jnr will
    Recession; A period when you go without something your Grandparents never heard of.

  16. #36

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    Alright, everyone is invited over for pancakes and syrup. BYOB! bring your own batter, I got the syrup. In a few more weeks I'll "hopefully" have some fresh walleyes, ramps, fiddleheads, morels and such so you all can stay for lunch as well.

    Sumac tea w' a lil maple syrup sounds good YCC.

    BTW, after settling over night there's about a 1/4" or less of sugar sand in the bottom. It's much lighter now though. When you hold it to the sky it's more of a medium yellow color. I don't know how to grade it, but I'm calling it grade A medium. LOL!

    I'm gonna let it sit for a few more hours and hopefully I can carefully pour off the clear stuff into another jar.

    If anyone's gonna try this I'd suggest starting with 10 gallons of sap minimum. 40 gallons would be better. I think it would be easier to control the heat, filter and such if you had more sap and syrup to work with, plus you'd have lots more syrup.

    I don't know if it was mentined before or not Winnie, but the minimum safe size to tap is 10" diameter for the health of the tree, but I'd say it's a good investment for winnie jnr. When it comes to trees, and syrup parties, I say "the more the merrier".

  17. #37
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Where does the sand come from?

  18. #38

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    From what I gather it's salts and other sediments that precipitate out of the sap after being heated. It's harmless, but it just makes the syrup appear darker and more cloudy. If it's real bad I guess the syrup could be gritty, but that is not the case with mine.

    http://www.mi-maplesyrup.com/Informa...enutrition.htm

    This link lists the makeup of syrup. I found an old article from the early 1900's where they were trying to extract malic and tartaric acid from the sap of maples.

    I'm not so much into the science of it. I use enough science to get er done and that's about it. It is pretty interesting the scinece of maples in general though. They are a quite variable and unique species of tree.
    Last edited by rwc1969; 03-12-2010 at 08:00 PM.

  19. #39
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    How do you plug the hole when done? I really have an affinity for preserving the balance in nature, and don't want to hurt the trees any more than I have to.
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  20. #40

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    I don't. From what I understand as long as you follow proper tapping methods there is no need and the tree will not suffer. In a year or two, or less the tree will heal itself. People have been tapping the same trees for a hundred plus years with little or no ill effect.

    I know of a row of old sugar maples in a long abandoned boy scout camp that are probably 3 to 4 feet in diameter. They have taps that go back a long way and none that I can see have been plugged. The trees must be over 200 years old and were probably first tapped at age 50 or so. At that time in our history people were still actively using all the natural resources around them.

    I would think if you plug the tree you are in effect injecting toxins directly into the bloodstream of the tree. It's just like a person, as long as you keep the cut clean and in the case of a puncture wound open and draining it will heal on it's own.

    The main things to remember are:

    Don't pound your taps in too hard or you'll split the tree.

    Don't tap ill or damaged trees that are already stressed. Trees that suffer from defoliation from bugs, etc. should be left be to heal.

    If you use copper taps remove them, you should probably remove them regardless, but copper will kill a tree if left in. I wouldn't use copper myself. I used nails this time to hang my buckets and removed them after I was finished. I wouldn't recommend nails, but it was what I had and I only intended to do it the one time.

    Never put more taps in per year than the tree can handle and don't put taps too close together during season and from year to year.

    Don't drill into the heartwood of the tree. The sap is in the cambium layer which may only run 1-1/2 to 2" deep. you really only need 1" deep taps, but I did mine 2".

    The links above have all the pertinent info as to safe maple tapping; tree diameter, # of taps, depth, etc.

    They recommend anywhere from 1 to 3" depth, but I think anything over 2" is overkill. As soon as you break past the bark the sap starts running. They sell taps and tubing that are very small diameter, and inexpensive. But you're taps should never exceed 1/2" and even that is overkill, but it's what I used. This is one area where the more primitive you go the more potentially damaging it is to the tree, so investing in some taps that will last a lifetime might be worth it. You can always do it primitively if needed or for experimentation, but I wouldn't go hog wild on it.

    According to the one link, a phenomenon of maples and perhaps other sweet sap producing trees is the sap is under pressure inside the tree. The pressure and sap comes from all directions and as soon as you pop thru the bark it starts dripping or even pouring out. Acording to what I read a 3/16" hole drilled one inch into the cambium can yield as much as a 1" hole drilled 3" deep. Also, if you drill into dark, damaged or heartwood it can negatively affect the sap flavor.

    Most of the things that negatively affect the trees health also negatively affect the yield or quality of sap.
    Last edited by rwc1969; 03-13-2010 at 12:11 AM.

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