Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How not to make maple syrup at home

What follows is a summary of our first attempt at making maple syrup from our backyard silver maples:

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.


Unknown said...

despite the mayhem, i am still jealous of your syrup making opportunities

jrfoleyjr said...

I came looking for more info on your gypsy-style camper wagon. Gone? Your mother-earth lifestyle with the backyard garden and homebrewing is something I have done for years. Are you still using canned malt extract? I am into mashing and once you get to this point using canned or dry malt to make beer just is not the same. I also started kegging using pepsi kegs. FUN!

Unknown said...

Some one just forward this to me, as I start tapping my trees for a 2nd year/attempt So much truth!
the only one thing you forgot was the boil it too much and burn it sending up smoke signals and destroying a pot in the process.

Libby: said...

So glad you found the blog, John! We tapped our trees yesterday. Lots more snow on the ground this year! I hope to post soon about our new-and-improved boiling set up. Hoping to avoid sending any smoke signals of our own :)

Unknown said...

SO how did your Boil go this year ?
we got close to a gallon and a half of syrup. this summer we are going to work on making a better boiling system

Libby: said...

It went MUCH better this year, but we were very busy in March/April so we only did about a quart, and a half gallon of maple wine (ended up tossing a lot of sap).

Next year we are going to make a proper boiling rig, I swear. The biggest improvement this year was a nice pan for boiling in, but we were still doing it with propane. Next year: firewood!