Sap to Syrup??…..Sap to Syrup!!

I am not going to give a how-to of tapping trees and making maple syrup.  There are lots of places that can tell you that.  I am going to recap our adventures.  Last year at this time, friends who have a farm podcast called Geek, Farm, Life  recounted their adventures in  making maple syrup and I decided that was something we could try too.

Soooooo…I, of course, procrastinated.  I ordered the taps, called spiles, last Wednesday from a company called Leader Evaporator. I immediately realized that we might miss about half the season waiting for the order to arrive. When I have a plan, I have no patience.  I wanted to tap trees NOW.  So, I explained my plight to hubby and said there must be a way to make your own spiles.  So, we found some online instructions and, with the help of our local Ace Hardware, used 3 inch segments of copper pipe, flexible vinyl tubing, hose clamps, and 5 gallon buckets to tap our trees.  AND, IT WORKED.  But, it also leaked pretty badly on a few.  We did 7 taps before running out of hose.  we waited for the real spiles to come int the mail which they did on Tuesday.  Putting those spiles in was easy and they do not leak at all.  The ones we ordered :

Getting the taps in and the sap out was only the first hurdle.  We had decided to purchase a large commercial outdoor burner from one of the Mexican markets around here.  They sell them for making tamales, quesadillas, etc.  We will use it for syrup, processing chickens, canning, tamales, parties, etc.   After about an hour of me cursing and not getting it working Paco came home, cursed a bit, and then figured out that we needed a  different connection.  So, batch one started to boil.  We had 5 gallons from the first day and a half.  I checked it regularly.  It took about 3 hours to cook down.  Inside, it would have taken twice that time.  I was monitoring temperature.  It needs to get to 219 degrees.  At 212 degrees, I went to take Lily to bed, came back downstairs and had a scorched mess.  I was almost in tears.   So I turned off the burner and went to bed.

Next day, we get about 8 gallons of sap.  After an hour of scrubbing the pot (no exaggeration), we started again.  This time the plan was to transfer it inside when it starts to get close for more careful monitoring.  I was checking frequently, but it STILL went too far.  This batch was not scorched, but it is closer to maple sugar than syrup. 

Yesterday, we have 12 gallons of sap! Our large pot holds 5 gallons so a lot of adding was down to ge the whole batch evaporated down. Started boiling at 2 and by 9 PM we have about 1/2 a gallon of something close to syrup.  We transfer to a smaller pot in order to decrease the surface area and slow down the process a bit (thanks for the tip Andrew!).  I cover the pot with a cloth and go to bed.  I easily finished the syrup this morning by not leaving it’s side and taking the temp constantly.  It took about 40 minutes. 

Strained it, put into canning jars and sealed them.  1 full quart and 1 cup!!

I expect to repeat the process this afternoon.  WE DID IT!!!!

drilling with 1/2 inch drill bit--about 2 feet up the tree
inserting pipe and attaching hose
watching the wood expand and fall of the bit
our homemade system
boil, baby, boil