Thursday, March 3, 2011

Maple Sugaring

My new late-winter entertainment is maple sugaring. I've got two good-sized Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) trees in back of my house, and bought a couple of taps for them the other week. Sap production has been pretty good, with half a dozen days over the past two weeks having just the right sort of weather (freezing at night, but sunny and warmish during the day).

The snow pack is still hanging in there. Today the temperatures have been too cold for anything to flow, but the sugaring weather outlook for the weekend is promising. I've been storing the collected sap in buckets in a hole in a snowbank.

On a good day, each tap produces more than a gallon of sap. The raw liquid is very slightly sweet (and makes an interesting basis for a cup of tea), but needs to be reduced about 40:1 to make syrup.

I've been boiling the sap down on my stove, which is probably the most inefficient and expensive possible way of making maple syrup. It makes the house warm and humidified, at least, and judicious exhaust fan use keeps moisture from building up to the point where the wallpaper peels. Maybe next year I'll set up a propane or wood-fired evaporating pan outdoors. It is useful to let the sap freeze outside, and discard the ice, before boiling: the ice is almost pure water, and the sugar is concentrated in the remaining liquid, at no cost.


Julie said...

How fun!!! I am amazed at the output from each tap daily!

Alex said...

I'm feeling a bit inspired. I was just telling someone yesterday sugaring sounded like fun. I knew that RO systems were employed commercially to reduce the water content before boiling, but I hadn't thought of using the Mongolian still technique instead. That makes the whole process seem more manageable.

Matt said...

Julie: Yes, it's been a lot of fun!

Alex: Stove-top evaporation with sap concentrated a little by freezing seems to be working out OK, at least at the scale where I'm operating (two taps, maybe a couple of mason jars of final product). It'll be interesting to see my electric bill.