Friday, February 19, 2016

Syrup Season!

In Middle TN, late January into February is maple syrup making time. Jeremiah and I got a tad of a late start, but we pulled out all the equipment and got started the first week of Feb. We were able to find all our taps but only 14 buckets, so we tapped 14 trees and began a mad hunt for more buckets and a 55 gal drum to collect sap with. After driving around from Dickson to Waverly and back home and more than half a day, we did find someone with a barrel, but he wanted to trade them for syrup! So commence frantic syrup making! Now, we have 30 trees tapped and have made about 1.5 gallons of syrup so far and have another 50 or so gallons of sap waiting for us! So how does one make syrup? My northern friends may know, but for those who don't...

1. Determine when your weather is right. The days have to be above freezing and the nights below freezing. This is what causes sap to flow!

2. Tap trees! We use 5/8" PVC pipe as taps. You drill into the tree until the wood shavings are wet (about 1/2-1") and pound your tap into the hole. Then stick a nail in the tree and hang your bucket! You want to make sure to not drill too near a scar from previous years tapping. Sugar maples are the best, but you can tap any maples. Alternatively, you could tap hickory or cherry tree for other kinds of syrup.
This is a 5 gal bucket for size comparison. 
3. When your buckets get partially full, collect your sap. You want to make sure you do this regularly and then cook it soon after, or the sap will go sour and you will be in for lots of scrubbing and bleaching to clean your buckets. We run our sap line with the tractor and a 55 gal drum. This is sap from yesterday.

4. Boil the sap. We have a 31 gallon stainless steel pan set up on a cinder block stove. The old syrup stove got run over and rusted out, so we had to improvise this year. Truthfully, we need a bigger pan. This year we are getting by, but in years past, Jeremiah has tapped over 100 trees and then there is way too much sap for a small pan like this one. When you are boiling the sap, you want  to make sure to skim off any debris or foam and to not let the level get too low. However, you don't want to add and add and add sap, or you will end up with a very dark and strong syrup. SO...

5. Finish it off inside. When the syrup starts to get amber in color or gets too low in the pan, transfer it to small pots. We have some on the wood stove and some on the electric stove. You want to cook it until it is a dark amber, tastes like syrup, and begins to coat a spoon. Or, 230F for the more technical people. 

6. Enjoy your homemade syrup! This is some we finished yesterday and by this morning, Jeremiah's younger brothers had already got into it! For the trees we use in our location, it is about 35-40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup.

We have no idea how much finished syrup we will have this year, but we hope to pick up production next year! This year hasn't been the best weather either, so hopefully it will be better next year. 

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