Cooking Sap

I am glad we live on a small hobby farm in the country because although I have to stay home I am still able to go outside and enjoy spring. Trenton is considered an essential employee and is still able to go to work which is a great relief for our family. I am currently working from home gathering resources for my Kindergarten class while I am still long-term subbing for the regular kindergarten teacher who is out on maternity leave. I have also been planning lessons for Lucian who is now kimg0674being home schooled. I am also supporting my sisters as they work to home school their children as well. A small upside to this is that it is finally getting nice enough that we can be out with Penelope for longer stretches.

It’s sugar season! The kids love hiking through the woods to check taps. Especially since their dad will sometimes literally throw them across the creek into the snow bank on the other side. Even Penelope goes in her sled or stroller to check taps.

The sap has really been flowing since it has warmed up a little more and we have cooked down our fist batch for syrup.

Cooking Process

  1. Start Outsidekimg0697

We start cooking our sap on a homemade outdoor sap boiler. It is basically a small wood stove with a stainless steel tub fitted over the top. The tub can hold about 25 gallons of sap but for our first batch we only had 15 ready to cook. It is best to cook your sap within a week of collecting it and needs to be kept cool while it waits. We keep the fire going in the fire box for most of the day until the sap has cooked down enough to bring in the house.

2. Finish Insidekimg0698

Once the sap has cooked enough outside to fit into my stock pot we bring it inside to finish. During this last stage of cooking the sap needs to be watched closely to be sure it does not cook down too much. If the syrup is cooked too long it will crystalize and turn into sugar. It still tastes good but we want syrup. The sap must be kept at a continuous rolling boil without boiling over until it is the right consistency.

3. Checking the Syrupkimg0699

This year we invested in a hydrometer which is a tool that measures the density of a liquid. In previous years we have always boiled the syrup until we felt it “thicken” when stirred. Using a hydrometer takes the guesswork out of cooking sap down. This year all our batches of syrup are consistent rather than runny or crystalized.

Pulling Taps

We could have made more syrup but after three batches we decided to be done for the year. Making syrup is not particularly hard but it is a time consuming process that we like to do but we are also glad to be done.

For our sugar season we boiled 60 gallons of syrup for a grand total of about 1 and a half gallons of finished syrup. Hopefully it will last us until next spring but it depends on how much syrup the kids need on their pancakes!

 

Getting Ready to Tap the Maples

It is finally starting to warm up a little. The sun is shinning, the days are mostly warm, and the nights are cold. The warm days and cold nights mean the sap in the maple trees will start to run. It is time to tap the maple trees and collect the sap to make syrup.

There are however, a few items that need to be prepped.

  1. Milk jugs need to be washed and collected.

A few years ago we decided to use milk jugs instead of buckets to collect sap. We cut a small X into the side of the jug and push the tap into it. We drink a lot of milk so we reuse our jugs and turn them into inexpensive sap collectors. Using the enclosed jug also works well to keep various bugs and moths

 

kimg0673out of the sap.

2. Five gallon buckets with lids need to be collected and washed.

Once the gallon milk jugs are full we dump them into clean 5 gallon buckets that Trenton has brought home from work. These buckets originally were filled with barbecue sauce so they need to be washed very well and aired out a bit so the sap doesn’t take on a bit of BBQ flavor. The buckets also need to have lids to keep us from spilling sap out of the buckets when we carry them.

3. Sap boiler needs to be cleaned out.

For some unknown reason my children, my nieces, and my nephews decided to fill the wood box of the sap boiler with various bricks, rocks, garbage, sticks, and twine. Why? No idea, but the result is that it needs to be cleaned out before we can start a fire to heat the sap.

4. The sap tub needs to be washed.

The metal tub that sits over the fire box of the sap boiler needs to be washed out before we can use it. It has been upside down all winter and has acquired a fair amount of dust. Moving the tub is a two person job because of how big and heavy it is. Which means washing it is also a two person job.

The weather is perfect for starting to collect sap from the maple trees. I’m hoping that my next post will be about the successful maple syrup harvest.

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