Maple Syrup 101, sort of….

Maine Maple Sunday is my favorite holiday. Yes I said holiday. The best one. Some might say better then Christmas! Okay I am the only person who says that, because I love it!

My family has built a sugar shack, which if your not from Maine or Vermont is a large shed with a syrup boiler in it.

Dad boiling

Sun rise
I live 2 hours south of the sap house so here is me waking up at the crack of dawn!

I think there is a more sophisticated name then “syrup boiler” but I’m going to stick with that. The most amazing smell comes out of the boiler but if you get too close you will definitely get burned. It is all metal and cast iron, therefore all HOT!

Front of boiler

So step one of syrup, collecting the sap. There are multiple ways to do this. When I was a wee lass my dad and I, mostly my dad, would drill a hole into a maple tree, put in a spout and attach a metal bucket for the sap to drip into. I always thought that the lids for the buckets were cool, they look like little hats, similar to a medieval helmet.

20130322-072120.jpg

We don’t use these buckets anymore, the operation has grown a little larger then my dad and I boiling sap on the side lawn late into the night. Now we use tubes, called lines, connected to the spouts. The lines are pulled taught and use gravity to travel downhill to the collection barrels.

Woods

The barrels can be a 5 gallon bucket or a 1,000 liter tank.

Sap bucket

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.

Combining buckets

There is a pump to get the tanks of syrup in the woods into the sugar shack but the 5 gallon buckets need to be carried in and poured into the collection tank that feeds right into the boiler.

Filling tank

My dad makes balancing on a ladder lifting 5 gallon buckets look easy!

Jesse steam

My partner in crime, Jesse.

Tank steam

Maple syrup facials are the best!

Tank steam 2

Fire 1

Jesse working the stove. The best way to heat up after checking the lines outside.

Fire 2
Fire 3
Fire 4

The fire usually has to be stoked every 15-20 minutes. I’m a pro. Not really, but I managed to do it without burning myself.

Temp 15

The temperature starts out very low, the goal is 219 degrees.

Temp 25

Dad fire 1

Temp 150

Jesse beer

This was the first boil and pour of the season, it took us 10 hours of boiling before we could pour off any syrup. Many beers were consumed.

Temp 202

It got really exciting after we passed 212 degrees, we got to wait 3 more hours!!

Fire 5

The temperature is getting close, need more fire!

Fire 6

Temp 207!

219!!!! Yes!!!!

Pouring syrup test

Pouring the syrup to test the sugar content with the hydrometer.

Measuring sugar

Getting ready to pour

When you pour the syrup it actually goes through three fine strainers similar to cheesecloth.

Syrup first pour

Then it goes into either a big pot or the bottler. We just bottled it by hand.

Grade test

Comparing the syrup to see what grade it is. The first pour boiled so long that it was darker then all of the grade samples.

Grade sample

I love when the syrup is this dark it is the best for baking, much more intense flavor.

Portioning syrup

Dad and Matt pouring the syrup into quarts then screwing on the tops quickly.

Upside down quarts

As soon as you have the tops screwed on you flip over the bottles so that they seal.

Label

All done! The sugar shack is in Vienna Maine and will be open for Maine Maple Sunday on Sunday March 24th!!

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