Tuesday, March 12, 2013
How not to make maple syrup at home
Step 1: Get up early. Place 5 gallons of collected sap in your biggest lobster pot.
Step 2: In the cold, build a makeshift fire pit out of random bricks. Make a fire out of brush you have lying around. Place pot over fire.
Step 3: Talk excitedly about how cool it will be to have homemade maple syrup in a few hours.
Step 4: Wait around for a while, stoking the fire, wondering why it's still not boiling after two hours.
Step 5: Get distracted. walk away and build a pea trellis, roast some coffee, whatever.
Step 6: Realize the fire has almost gone out. Restart it. Still not boiling.
Step 7: Repeat steps 4 - 6 until it is nearly dusk.
Step 8: Build a rocket stove. Hope it will get hot enough to boil the sap.
Step 9: At dusk, give up. Transfer pot to outdoor gas burner.
Step 10: Give up for the night. Turn off heat, cover pot.
Step 11: Resume boiling the next morning.
Step 12: Once enough liquid has evaporated, despite the lack of boiling, bring reminder inside to finish on electric stove.
Step 13: Rejoice! It's finally boiling!
Step 14: Despair! It boiled over! Your stove is now covered in proto-syrup and a not insignificant portion of your already tiny yield is gone. (Regrettably, I do not have pictures of this step.)
Step 15: Rejoice again! 30 hours later, you have made 1.5 cups of homemade maple syrup. It's not much, but it's all yours.
So yeah, our first attempt at home scale maple syrup production was kind of a disaster. But we did get delicious, backyard harvested nectar of the gods out of it. We learned some important lessons--mostly that you can't boil such large quantities of liquid over a fire without more surface area, and also that you can't get bored and walk away from a fire and expect it to magically boil your sap.
We are still collecting sap from our trees and will do another boil this weekend, because we are gluttons for punishment.