Saturday, February 25, 2012
Susie and Ace were down for a spell. Harold brought Taylor and her two friends out to see the process and sip some sap. Also got to catch up with Mart, who's back home from three weeks on little corn island.
Professional maple syrup producers use expensive continuous process evaporators. Besides being expensive, these require a LOT of sap to operate. This is not practical for the average hobbiest. Most of the guys in this area use a batch process instead. Batch evaporation is nothing more than putting a big pan on a heat source and boiling it down. I use a 15 gallon stainless steel steam table pans, that I got in a trade for a gallon of honey.
When you start evaporating, you will be adding fresh sap as the boiling progresses. If the added sap is cold, it stops the boiling process, and really slows down the process. So I use two pans to pre-heat the fresh sap, which is then added to the primary boiling pan once hot. Actually, if you have enough heat on the pre-heating pan, you can do a considerable amount of the evaporation in the pre-heating pan, which really speeds things up, because as the primary pan gets more and more concentrated, the evaporation slows down considerably, so it helps to reduce the volume of sap as much as possible before it goes into the primary evaporator pan
Know when to say when:
When you make maple syrup, it is very important to boil the sap down to the proper concentration. If you boil it too much, the syrup will crystallize on cooling, which I'm sad to say I did with last weekends batch. The crystallization will continue past the point of ideal syrup so you end up with big sugar crystals covered by a watery liquid, which is not ideal. If you don't boil it down enough, the syrup will not be concentrated enough, which will permit bacteria to grow in the syrup, and it won't last as long. So, I plan on keeping an eye on this batch.
The temp. never got much over freezing, from a low of 17* this am. to 20* at 10 pm.
Tonight the walk down to the bush provided a brilliant sky show with Venus and Jupiter snuggling up to the crescent moon.
Mary and Clayton stopped by for some tea and to catch up as we finished off this batch. It's looking much better, no crystals. Bacon, eggs and fried tators for lunch.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Maple Syrup History The process of making maple syrup is an age-old tradition of the North American Indians, who used it both as a food and as a medicine. They would make incisions into trees with their tomahawks and use birch barks to collect the sap. The sap would be condensed into syrup by evaporating the excess water using one of two methods: plunging hot stones into the sap or the nightly freezing of the sap, following by the morning removal of the frozen water layer.
When the settlers came to North America, they were fascinated by this traditional process and in awe of the delicious, natural sweetener it produced. They developed other methods to reduce the syrup, using iron drill bits to tap the trees and then boiling the sap in the metal kettles in which it was collected.
It requires an average of 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. This afternoon the trees are running about
28 drips per. minute give or take a few.
Maple sap can run at the rate of up to 150 drops-per-minute.
Right now I've got about 30 taps in trees and I plan on finishing up the batch I've got boiling and then collect sap this week for next weekends boil. There is something relaxing about spending so much time outside nursing a fire.
Here's a shot of the sugar shack, top down. I finished the batch about 10:00 pm, about 2 quarts total. This time of year the birds are quit active. I've had whooping cranes and geese fly over, a king fisher hanging out by the bridge, a harrier hawk flying slowly low above the hay field looking for small rodents and lots of cardinals and juncos along the edge of the timber.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Another hole drilled and another tree tapped and the sap is flowin. The conditions look good for the weekend. I've got just over half of my taps put in.
Tapping the tree doesn't ruin it --- the tree heals itself after you remove the tap. You can keep tapping the same tree year-after-year, just not in exactly the same spot. The tree heals the tap-hole but there is still a small "scar" where the hole was.
I like using the bags to collect the sap. I can roll out about six or more feet, tie off the end of the bag, pop in a copper spigot and wrap with a short piece of wire and Bam, done.
On to the next tree.
I've got this bag weighted with a rock. Empty bags can really get beat up on a windy day.
But, a bag full of sap with a guard dog is just fine.
Here's a tap that I forgot to pull last spring.
The red clay works well to tighten all those little leaks in the stove.
Looking forward to a three day weekend in the timber making camp, cleaning up brush,choppin wood,collecting and boiling sap.
50's cocktail/dance party in DBQ. I'm thinkin rockabilly.
Plus I'ld like to catch a fish or two.
Ernest Hemingway trout fishing 1950's