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*Maple Sugaring*


By Lori


It’s April and late for sugaring because the run has been delayed by very cold temps. Some days have been sunny and warm but little melting was happening until yesterday (April 2nd). We actually had some much needed rain yesterday…although it was barely enough to wet the ground/snow it was so welcome, because that’s usually what starts the granular snow and the main run of sap in the maples.

Back in March I dug out the little buckets and the spiles and washed them in preparation. But the weather remained obdurate…cold! Today, after a spectacular day yesterday, I put on my snow shoes and tramped down some pathways. I located my brace and a special bit, a hammer and spiles and buckets.
The following shot shows the spots in the snow from sap leaking from damaged branches higher up. The squirrels love to find these lesions and drink the sap from the ruptures.

This is two of the four trees I have tapped simply because the snow is too deep to get to any others. Carrying buckets of sap through treacherous shifting sugar snow causes spillage and loss of precious sap.
The four trees are just the right size.. one should not tap a tree less than 10 inches in diameter.

Holes are drilled on the south facing side of the tree, or beneath a large limb, or above a large root, to a depth of 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch, and the spiles which are tapped into the holes, have a hook to hold the pails which need emptying in only hours…on a good sunny warm day.
Each tap should yield roughly 20 gallons of sap…it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
Later this afternoon I’ll go out and collect the sap from the buckets for temporary cold storage…it should be boiled as soon as possible on an open fire or a converted barbeque. Boiling down sap on a kitchen stove can be done but the steam tends to be sticky and leaves your kitchen in need of a good wash down. In the sugar camps where the boiling takes place in an evaporator there are reservoir/drums to hold the sap which is filtered gallon by gallon and added to one end of the evaporator. The interior of the sugar shack is so sweetly scented that it’s delicious just to stand beside the evaporator and smell the sticky steam! I could go into detail about evaporators but it is not really applicable to my little operation. Would suggest that those interested in the industrial aspect of sugaring could check out the many “sugar camps” on google. It’s most interesting.
The sap in my kettle seems to go on steaming for hours and hours without any change…but when the thickening happens it’s sudden and you must pay close attention or you could have sludge on your hands. When the temp reaches 219 degrees F your syrup is finished and ready for a final straining/filtering, after which the syrup is heated to 160 degrees and bottled. Containers should be sterilized. If the syrup is properly finished it is pure sugar and should keep indefinitely if stored in a cool dark place.

Will update this blog with pictures of my evap. process. Ahhh … wood smoke and the aroma of maple sap!

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Fascinating blog Lori, thankyou for sharing with us....

3 Apr, 2015


Excellent and informative blog Lori. A sticky kitchen...yuck!

3 Apr, 2015


I was going to say fascinating too - snap Lincslass! Isn't it amazing that the tree can afford to lose so much sap? Can you tap the same tree two years in succession Lori?

3 Apr, 2015


In years past I would have answered your question with a resounding Yes!, Steragram. However, we have had enough snow the last two winters to offset the drought/dry conditions that caused damage to the trees three years ago. I gave my trees a rest last season, and bought our syrup from a neighbour. I'm not sure how close my trees will come to the 20 gallon figure. The run this year has been sporadic...the trees need moderate temps daytime in the single digits, with night temps only slightly below zero. This year and last we had only one or two days above zero in March and the nights remain Very cold...minus 20's with a strong windchill factor. Who wants to unfurl their tiny buds with winter's blast still roaring about? LOL... Yesterday and today have been the first days in the optimum pattern and that's why I decided to start today... BUT.. tonight we are supposed to receive snow with temps well below zero and only 1 degree tomorrow~ so there won't be much sap run tomorrow. When temps are below zero the run stops altogether. yes, the same tree can be tapped every year, under normal conditions. glad you enjoyed the blog ladies... tomorrow or maybe Sunday I'll show you my firepit and kettle! :-)

4 Apr, 2015


Very interesting Lori. Thank you.

4 Apr, 2015


Another thought Lori - How on earth do you use 20 gallons in one year?

4 Apr, 2015


The key there, Stera, is "I don't produce that much." Each tree will yield approx. 20 gallons of sap in any given year...some are better than others. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one (1) gallon of syrup. My 4 trees at optimum will give me enough sap for 2 gallons of syrup. So, when I give a couple of quarts to the kids that leaves me with a gallon for my own use! Last year I didn't tap and bought a gallon from my didn't take long to use it up, believe me. Also, last years syrup, because of conditions the previous year (late cold, interrupted run, lots of water,) the syrup was a darker colour than usual. Lots of variables affect the production of a natural product.

5 Apr, 2015


Oh I see - that makes a difference! What do you use it for?
(apart from putting it on pancakes...)

5 Apr, 2015


It works well in baking, but that tends to require a lot of it so I prefer to keep it for sweetening tea, salad dressing, icings or glazes. If you boil the syrup long enough without stirring it will become toffee, if you stir the syrup while boiling it down it will become a sugary (granular like demerarra sugar)but as you say it is delicious as syrup on pancakes or french toast.

6 Apr, 2015


Interesting - I'd wondered what people did with it. I don't do any of those things though, OH can't have sugar...I'd love to taste maple syrup toffee though!

7 Apr, 2015


I'm not supposed to have sugars either, Stera. but I keep maple sugar because it's a natural sweetener and available where I am. OH eats sugar any way he likes, makes me envious. Maple sugar toffee is the creme de la creme. In the old days my Grandad would take the extra boiled syrup hot from the stove and pour it on clean snow. It would solidify quickly and many a burned lip or tongue later we would still be chomping our toffee! Great Memory!

8 Apr, 2015


That sounds wonderful - I'd be a toffee addict if I took the brakes off!

8 Apr, 2015

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