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Thread: Maple Syrup 2011

  1. #21

    Default First Boil!

    I spent all afternoon Saturday and into the evening making syrup. Everything went real good and I ended up with a gallon of the good stuff, 8 pints.

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    This is my bottling and filtering station, the kitchen table. Last year I used a mason jar, but these bottles are actually less expensive and easier to pour from. The pot on the right is my filter. I think I paid 20 bucks for the filter, 4 pre-filters, 4 stainless clips to hold the filters, and the nickel plated mesh basket to hold them, that's the long handle sticking out. It was a great investment and did a much better job than the cheesecloth I used last season. These filters can be used over and over for years too.

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    The sugar shack was like a sauna at times, but kept most of the rain and snow off me and out of the sap. It held up to 4" of snow overnight....barely.

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    I just kept feeding raw sap into the pans from left to right and it got progressively darker and thicker as I went.

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    This pan is getting somewhat close to being ready for finishing. If it got too far ahead of the other two pans I'd just add more raw sap directly to it.

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    I don't recall if I mentioned it already, but I use this big plate steel to cover the holes as the pans finish. I only have two pans left to finish in this pic. The sheet is big enough to cover the entire top of the evaporator, so I can fire it up with no pans at all and use it for heat or whatever else I like, a grill maybe.

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    I wanted to take more pics, but between the splitting of wood, stoking the fire, skimming the pans, adding sap, transferring sap, preventing boil over, and taking the few pics and vids I did, it was a lot of work and fairly fast paced. But, it was a lot of fun, should be doing it again this weekend.

    That's pretty much it. Here's three vids showing the evaporator in action, the finishing of the syrup, and the filtering and bottling.

    It took 4 hours to boil 27 gallons of sap, another gallon boiled off after I shut it down:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMOazjcdXIw

    Then I brought it in on the kitchen stove to finish and filter, a more controlled heat source prevents ruining all your hard work by burning or boiling over the syrup on the fiery woodstove:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxAFNeDQLfk

    Once finished I filtered and bottled it. The syrup had cooled to 170 F after filtering so i put it back on the heat to bring it up just under 190F. It has to be over 180 to bottle, but if you reheat it past 190 more sugar sand/ nitre can precipitate out and you will have to re-filter it again:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etYEgt2YRkQ
    Last edited by rwc1969; 03-07-2011 at 10:27 AM. Reason: spelling, fixed link


  2. #22
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Looks like your well thought out plan worked magnificently. Well done.
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  3. #23

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    Not too bad, I've given away half already, lotsa smilin' faces.

  4. #24
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    This is the point where I usually do the shameless plug and reminder about the QC department.
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  5. #25

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    Hehehehe! Maybe I can donate a pint or two for the next BIF thang, that is if the sap runs, today I only collected 11 gallons, that's 2 days worth of sap, half the buckets were dry. The cold really slows em down.

  6. #26
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    That would be a great prize if the sap cooperates (hmmmmmm - I seem to recal Sally Jenkins saying the same thing to me in the 7th grade).
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  7. #27
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Great job brother. Nice work!!

  8. #28

    Default The best and the worst of it.

    the best part of this whole process was giving the syrup to the folks letting me tap their trees. They were all real surprised I had syrup for them already, smilin' faces.

    After I left the one lady called and said she had friends who wanted to learn and also let me tap in return, but i have no more money for taps and am in need of more buckets. Buckets are hard to come by, it's a slow process getting them for free. and the stores want 5 bucks + for food grade plastic which makes it not economical.

    The worst part of this whole process is all the washing. I was never good at washing dishes let alone bucket after bucket. I'd rather chop wood all day long than wash dishes for an hour. LOL!

  9. #29
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    An opportunity to teach is always a great thing. Who knows: 20 years from now that whole neighborhood might be a maple orchard.

  10. #30

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    The one neighborhood has 2 big maples in front of every house, and another two or three in each back yard. I wanna tap em all.

  11. #31

    Default Batch Number Two

    Well I got my second batch finished and bottled, 13 1/2 pints.

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    I was up all night Friday boiling, finishing, filtering, and bottling.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99crmEfRpbs

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    But, I managed to get all three pans boiling well, and was getting about 10 gallons an hour evap rate.

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    Earlier in the day I was collecting sap, it takes me 2 hours to do a 16 mile loop and gather sap from 30 taps using my sled, cooler and buckets.

    This re-usable coffee filter works real good to filter out debris from the sap when filling tanks or buckets.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2Y4JCgVpiI

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    Considering the time it takes to gather and boil sap, I wanted to know just how high the sugar content was from the trees I was tapping. So, i bought a sap hydrometer for 12 bucks to test the sap. I drew this off after filtering above and it measures in at over 3%, which is real good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhtv1Fl0zrE

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    I learned a new rule today called the rule of 86, simply divide 86 by the % of sap and it will give you a good idea of the sap to syrup ratio. My ratio was roughly 28 1/3 to 1, meaning I need to boil off 28 1/3 gallons of sap to get 1 gallon of syrup. I started with roughly 67 gallons of sap, dumped 5 to 10 of it on the ground accidentally, and ended up with just over 1 3/4 gallons of syrup. So, that rule seems to be fairly accurate.

    It's a good rule to know, and a good tool to have, because if you're trees are only putting out 1% sap it will take a whopping 86 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, might not be worth it if there are 3% trees across the street or down the hill.

    Once I got the syrup finished and filtered I needed to bottle it. But, it had cooled off below 180 F, the threshold for safe bottling. So, I had to reheat it for bottling. Last time I did this, I ended up with sugar sand from the reheat, that's likely because I had microboils in the reheat pan.

    To prevent this I made a makeshift double boiler, and carefully heated the sap ensuring it was above 180, but below 195 F. If the syrup is heated beyond 195 more sugar sand can be released, putting to waste your filtering efforts.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y12Q3jeVrAU

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    I just sat my syrup pot on top of some mason jar rings inside the iron skillet, this way even the syrup nearest the heat source won't overheat. The digital thermometer is great, but it won't accurately tell you if the syrup near the heat is overheating.

    That's pretty much it, I just hope this freeze/ thaw cycle continues through the month as I still have lots of bottles to fill and plenty of wood to burn.

  12. #32
    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
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    I love popping into this thread thread now and again. It's incredibly informative and makes me hungry.
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  13. #33
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    More great stuff RWC - or I guess I could say SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!
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  14. #34
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    The only thing I heard was "waffles".

    I would have thought there would be more sugar in the sap than that. Which brand of maples are you tapping, or can you be sure when they are dormant like that?
    We planted a Silver Maple 10 or 12 years ago and it's getting pretty big. It's supposed to have the lowest sugar content and I doubt if I could get 90 gallons of sap from it. I'm wondering if you could do less condensing and use it more like a sweetwater than a syrup, like for sweetening tea.

    Really excellent thread. It does make me consider the materials setup, vs the syrup retrieved. I'm just not sure that our tapping season is long enough, or that our trees have enough content to be worth it. Mostly what you see around here are red, with the exception of a few odd ones. I've only spotted a couple sugar maples and they are far, far apart.

  15. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by your_comforting_company View Post
    The only thing I heard was "waffles".

    I would have thought there would be more sugar in the sap than that. Which brand of maples are you tapping, or can you be sure when they are dormant like that? You can tell. I'm tapping reds and sugars or blacks and average 3% sugar, which is pretty good.
    We planted a Silver Maple 10 or 12 years ago and it's getting pretty big. It's supposed to have the lowest sugar content and I doubt if I could get 90 gallons of sap from it. Silvers work, some have high sugar. If it's 10" diameter or bigger, tap it, every tap is worth a quart of syrup or more. All trees vary, some folks get the same sugar from silvers as the do blacks or sugars growing right next to each other, it all just depends on a lot of different factors. I'm wondering if you could do less condensing and use it more like a sweetwater than a syrup, like for sweetening tea. Sure you could, it wouldn't preserve or keep from freezing like syrup, but it would be sweeter the more you condense it. Anywhere from sugar water to hard solid sugar.

    Really excellent thread. It does make me consider the materials setup, vs the syrup retrieved. I'm just not sure that our tapping season is long enough, or that our trees have enough content to be worth it. Mostly what you see around here are red, with the exception of a few odd ones. I've only spotted a couple sugar maples and they are far, far apart. I wouldn't worry whether or not you have sugars, around here moslty what is tapped is reds, silvers and even box elders. My only concern would be the lack of a freeze thaw cycle. I guess when it comes down to it, as with most things, there's only one way to find out.
    And again, just because I bought a couple fancy pieces of low cost equipment, it's not needed. A drill or brace and bit to tap, elderberry or sumac spout for a tap, an old milk jug or bucket to gather, a pot and an open fire to boil on, a spoon to check consistency, an old pillow case, sheet, wool sweater, flannel shirt to filter it, and something to can or bottle it in.

    It's a very basic process that only gets as complicated as you, or I, make it. It can be very primitive using heated rocks to boil and birch bark containers to store, or it can be extremely advanced with miles of tubing entangling the woods, loud vacuums and reverse osmosis units to draw and filter sap, and huge gas fired stainless steel behemoths to boil it down. There's lots of fancy gismos to test syrup and sap, but a spoon works nearly as good. Any good sugarer can tell syrup by the way it sheets off a spoon and can tell candy or the like by the look and feel as well. With time it all becomes as natural as riding a bike.

  16. #36

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    I can't remember if I listed my expenses for this project, but will now:

    Evaporator complete 170.00
    Wood, 2 face cords delivered 130.00
    bottles, hydrometers, filters and the like, another 300.00

    600 bucks total, and the only thing I'll need to buy next year is bottles and wood. I'm hoping I can salvage wood as this year goes on, as it's the biggest non-reusable expense.

    The above costs are for making about 10 gallons of syrup annually, 40 taps. I coiuld easily expand to 100 taps with a minimal amount of coin, say 50 bucks. I believe a gallon of syrup is currently at 62 dollars, but folks who sell it average 100 a gallon due to selling smaller bottles, candy, creme and other specialty items like maple coated pecans and such. I don't look at this as a money making venture, but with work it could be a good supplement to one's income, or a very profitable business.

    If I were looking at it as a business venture it would go something like this:

    Startup cost: 600 bucks is 3 1/2 weeks liviing expenses
    Time investment: 16 hours a week times a 6 week season = 96 hours, not including selling time, TBD?
    Annual costs: less than 100 if the wood is free, 200-300 if not
    Return on investment: 1000 - 250 = 750 dollars for 96 hours work, probably not worth it considering gas driving around, money and time spent on booths at farmers markets or the like.

    But, hopefully no one expects to turn a profit on a 10 gallon a year operation. As the number of taps increases so does the ROI.

    For me, it's a break even deal, a way to get exercise at a time of year when it's needed, and a way to make family and friends happy keeping a tradition alive in Michigan that's been around for hundreds of years, long before the land was settled.

  17. #37

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    Well, it might be over!

    I gathered 64 gallons of sap in one day last Wednesday and had 31 from the day before. Fearing the warm temps in the 60's and low 70's would make the sap spoil, I started my boil Wednesday night at 8pm, finished, filtered, bottled, and cleaned up by 11 am the next day.

    I ended up with 2.2 gallons of pure maple syrup from that one run. The huge warmup with no freezing nights for the past 3 days has shut the sap right down, any sap left in tanks is getting cloudy and spoiling. The ants, bees, flies, and moths are out and getting in buckets, so, I snapped the lids on my 5 gallon buckets tight to keep them out. I'm hoping the freezing night temps predicted will cause the sap to start flowing again, and that it will not be buddy, if so, I may get another good week of sugarin', if not, this is it, it's over.

    Season details:

    I've made 6.78 gallons of syrup this year from 267 gallons of sap collected over the last 16 days.
    I spilled about 10-15 gallons of that sap hauling it out of the woods, overfilling buckets and such.
    Average sap yield per tap/ per day is .56 gallons.
    Greatest daily sap from a single tap is 5+ gallons, bucket running over.
    Least amount is 0, a big goose egg.
    Greatest daily sap total is 76 gallons, least is 5 gallons.
    I have 30 taps on 15 trees, 1 to 3 taps per tree depending on size.
    I've given away and bartered almost 2 gallons of syrup so far, most was given away.
    The bartering was for trees, buckets and wood.

    Batch # 4

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    Color:

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    Last edited by rwc1969; 03-19-2011 at 07:02 AM. Reason: added pic

  18. #38
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    * Makes note: adding some Burton Ohio USA Syrup to Winnies Care Package LOL

    Sap stopped running here now, last weekeend was the last of the real flow.

    Wow, you really got into it this year... good for you, great and rewarding hobby. We just got enough for us this year of maple, sassafrass and birch. Made a total of 7 1/2 jars, but was fun to do.

  19. #39
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    If it does end soon, you've still had a darn fine season. Well done.
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  20. #40
    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
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    That looks sooo good. Pancakes, icecream, sponge pudding, pancakes, sweet dumplings, porridge. Oh did I mention pancakes? Tree tapping doesn't go on here, but then again, we don't have Maples in any number either. That's why I like this sort of thread.
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