April 3, 2014

Sugaring Off: The 2014 Maple Syrup Adventure – Part 1

Making Maple Syrup 2014 | The Naptime Chef

Last month we embarked on our first ever sugaring off experience and it was such a blast. Inspired by my friend Aimee, we tapped the healthy sugar maple in our backyard to see what would happen. As it turns out – a lot! This year was a learning curve for us. Next year we’ll definitely tweak our methods to make the process more efficient with a higher yield. Here is how it all went down:

Making Maple Syrup | The Naptime Chef

1) Tapping the tree: Thankfully Aimee had some extra taps made from food grade plastic and she generously mailed us a few. Per the tap instructions, we tapped the sunny side of the tree and put the hole at a 17 degree angle. We did this on our fifth consecutive day above freezing so we had high hopes that the sap would be running, and it was! I thought it would be very slow and hard to detect, but the second we got the tap in it started dripping like a leaky faucet. The sap even splashed us when we hit the tap with a mallet to secure it in the tree.

Making Maple Syrup | The Naptime Chef

2) Collecting the sap: We fashioned a bucket out of a food grade milk jug since we don’t have any proper syrup buckets. It worked just fine for our needs. The sap didn’t run much at night, but during the day I was emptying the jug nearly every hour. We had big orange buckets in the our chilly garage and kept filling them up. It was a lot of hustling, but we had 20 gallons by the end of the week! I think next year we might add a second tap and bucket to collect more sap over the course of a week. Our large tree could easily handle it.

Making Maple Syrup | The Naptime Chef

3) Boiling Down the Sap: Since we’ve heard many horror stories we opted to boil the sap down on our outdoor burner. I am so glad we did. The process took hours! I filtered the sap through a strainer lined with cheesecloth twice before boiling it just to make sure no little chips of bark ended up in the pot. Then we started boiling. And boiling. And boiling. This is the part we will do differently next year. In hindsight we started the boiling too late (11am) and did all of the sap at once. It would be easier to do a few small batches over the course of a week. But, that is what we did and, though we were exhausted, the result was delicious. We boiled all 20 gallons, finished it on the stovetop, and ended up with just over a quart of syrup.

Stay tuned…later this month I’ll stop in the share what we’ve been making with our syrup. I have a few delicious treats in mind!