It’s been a hard Winter, but that could not keep the Maple Trees from providing one of the best years of sap that I have seen. Maybe it was the amount of snow we got hit with this year, but whatever the reason we are thankful. The Maple Syrup turned out GREAT!
Collecting The Maple Tree Sap
With the steep hills we decided to take advantage of gravity and used more tube-lines this year on our taps, bring multiple lines down to our buckets. The tube-lines worked great and even made it safer, eliminating the occasional slip or fall when collecting the Sap on those hillsides. It also made it easier to haul the Sap to the evaporator since we could drive the 4-wheeler right to the buckets.
How Much Will A Tree Produce
Each Maple Tree on average will produce between 9 and 13 gallons of sap. However, the sugar concentrate will vary depending on the Maple Tree Type. Our sugar percentages ranged from 2.2% to 3.2%. Our estimate for sap to syrup ratio is 57 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 1.5%, 40 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 2.5%, and 25 to 1 for a sugar concentrate of 3.5%. We do use a Sap Hydrometer for this and figure we are using 30 to 35 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup.
Our evaporator setup is far from being professional, but it works great for those of us who are only making a few gallons of Maple Syrup for family and friends. In our system we boil in three stages, making it easier to control and produce that great tasting Maple Syrup. The first stage is the evaporator, here we estimate the number of gallons of Sap we are boiling and boil down to a ratio of approximately 30 to 1 (typically it takes ~40 gallons to make one gallon of syrup). We start with 150 gallons of sap and will boil that down to ~5 gallons. We will then take this 5 gallons and put that into a Turkey Cooker, which is our second stage of boiling. Here we will boil that down unit it starts to foam over. At this stage the syrup is close and we move this into the kitchen for boiling a few more minutes and then filtering and storing into Mason Jars. Even though we have a Syrup Hydrometer we do not use it, as it’s easier in our setup to watch the temperature and for the foaming.
How do we know when the Maple Syrup has turned to the right concentrate? Well, we do not use the Hydrometer, as this takes time and when the syrup is at the right temperature you need to remove the heat right away or it will crystallize, giving you a lot of Maple Sugar. So we use a good cooking (Candy) thermometer, which has the jelly mark on it (shown in the video) and complete foaming over the top, also shown in the video. The temperature we are looking for is 219 (Jelly mark is at 220) and when it foams over the top remove it from the heat source.
The simplest way I know for knowing when the Maple Syrup is done is to trial a small batch first. Using a Candy Thermometer let the temperature reach 219 F. and then wait for the top to completely foam over. As soon as it foams over remove it from its heat source. Now you know what to watch for and what to expect and can move on to much larger batches with confidants.
Tapping Maple Trees
Tapping Maple Trees can start as early as mid-February and continue through early April depending on the weather. To tap a Maple Tree drill a hole slightly larger than your tap diameter, 2 – 4 feet above the ground. The hole should be drilled at a slight upward angle to a depth of about 3 inches and above a major root system going into the ground. Use a hammer to lightly tap the spike into the tree (two inches is good).