My first attempt at making maple syrup.

So, I won’t be holding a pancake party for everyone any time soon.  For eight days I dutifully collected sap, strained it through a mesh sieve to remove dirt and bark bits, and stored it in a stainless steal pot in the fridge.

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I’m not sure why, but our maple tree was not a bountiful producer of sap this year.  A tree that size should produce 5-15 gallons of sap in a season but we’ve only collected maybe 2/3 of a gallon of sap. Perhaps it has something to do with the unusually cold weather we had this winter.

On Sunday I boiled it down because sap will spoil after about a week. I had so little that I decided to cook it down right on the stove instead of bothering with building a fire outside:

 

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This would have yielded like a half-cup (lol) of syrup, only I turned my back on it for a few minutes and missed the point at which it hit 7 degrees over the boiling point of water, and it promptly turned into a lump of maple taffy.  Which tasted fine, but this was kind of a lot of work for a couple of pieces of maple taffy candy.

But it was a good learning experience.  Here is a summary of the lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Sap will run later than expected if the weather is unusually cold; wait to tap until the daytime temperatures are above freezing but the nighttime temperatures are still falling below freezing.

2. I need to get our maple tree checked out by someone. I noticed an area on it where the bark looks like it could be pest-infested; it’s a nice old maple and I don’t want to lose it, so I’ll get that checked out in early summer.

3. I need to scour the property for more maples, as one does not yield enough sap to make it worth tapping.

4. Do NOT turn your back on syrup that is nearly finished boiling down. It turns into maple sugar/taffy pretty fast.  Stay right there with your candy thermometer in hand.

Hopefully the Hedding family, who live not too far from us, are having better luck at H & H Sugarbush farm.  And this weekend is The Big 400 Maple Festival here in the portage communities:

It’s maple syrup time! The communities of The Big 400 are teaming up to celebrate maple syruping in southern Michigan with a festival on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The festival includes pancake breakfasts, tours of tapping areas and the syruping process, the release of a local maple wine, a smoked maple porter and lots of good things to eat.

We’re planning on attending some of the festivities and maybe I’ll glean a few tips to make next year a more successful tapping.

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6 thoughts on “My first attempt at making maple syrup.

  1. Maybe it’s my suspicious nature but, why do I think my buddies couldn’t resist your sap all ready to drink down in the bucket. They should have left you a thank you note.

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  2. The Vermontville Maple Syrup Festival– the very first syrup festival in Michigan, is a lot like what you’ve described. My husband grew up in this tiny, map on the dot town so naturally, we go as tradition. No maple trees on our land a half hour away though. I love your posts because they are similar to my life in weather condition and the like. Thanks for the nice story, SM!

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  3. The sugarmakers here in northern Vermont still haven’t gotten their first sap run. Considering we had whiteout conditions yesterday and more snow squalls this morning it could be while.

    You really need several days of above freezing temperatures to get the sap moving. At least it was a fun experiment for you. Maybe you’ll get more sap when things warm up.

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