↓ Archives ↓

Maple Syrup 101

Maple syrup is really neat, a big treat, and a royal pain in the butt to make.

It is expensive to buy, running from $45 to $60 a gallon.

Modern machinery and technology have combined to turn most sugarbushes (stands of large maple trees utilized by the big maple producers) into a maze of blue tubing and pumps, efficiently moving sap from tree to tank to evaporator. No hauling sloshing buckets hooked on spiles in these forests!

The thing is, today’s evaporators are increasingly using reverse osmosis. This is fantastic for efficiency and keeping energy costs low in what is always an energy-intensive process.

However, having tasted a lot of the newer maple syrup production, one thing is missing: Intense maple flavor. Oh, it is maple syrup, for sure. But it seems that the thing that makes the process so costly is also the thing that is so necessary, and that is heat.

We have been making our own maple syrup for the past five years, something I did as a kid each winter out at Penn State’s recreation area, Stone Valley. Each year we have experimented with different fuels, different evaporators, different amounts of sap. And we have finally arrived at  a simple set-up that works well for us.

We use a 28×44 stainless evaporator pan, made well by a young guy in Iowa.

Under it we have two large propane burners.

We gather about five to twenty gallons of sap a day, and when we hit 20 gallons, we start boiling. It  takes about six to eight hours to carefully boil that 20 gallons down to a one-gallon “liquor” that we spirit into the house and carefully simmer on the stove top until it reaches its finished stage.

Final quality is determined by taste-testing by all in the house, though Mom usually has the last say.

Old whisky bottles with cork stoppers are used to store the syrup, usually in a fridge or freezer.

The real lesson we have learned is that heat is one of the factors in giving that old fashioned “Grade B Dark” full flavor. And this is why we make our own maple syrup. It is nigh impossible to find the old dark Grade B syrup any longer, and the darkest now produced, that we can find, is a shadow of a maple syrup’s true glory, a result of death-by-technology.

Heat is necessary to make that rich flavor. And a lot of careful hovering to make sure that heat doesn’t burn that sap.

No Comment

Be the first to respond!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.