www.mybaycity.com April 13, 2008
Business Article 2514
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The Sap Is Runnin' -- It's Sugarin' Time

Mother Nature's Maple Sweetness Is Ready For The Takin'

April 13, 2008
By: Kevin Leahy

The boiling continues day and night as you reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

Spring is finally here and so has been the flow of Maple Sap in MI.

With the kids having spring break last week from school I figured it would be a good chance to show them the process involved in making Maple Syrup at the cabin.

My dad showed me years ago and all the equipment was there, including the sugar maples.

The first step in the process is to scrub your buckets clean and sanitize them and the hoses you will be using. I use quarter inch plastic hose from the hardware store.

The sanitized buckets and hoses are ready to to be filled with sap.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

We use four inch long stainless steel tubes that are the same diameter as the drill bit we use to drill the holes in the tree's, and the hose slides right over the end of the steel once tapped into the tree.

On Tuesday morning I tapped five Sugar Maples and ran the hoses into seven gallon buckets. My kids and I returned on Thursday afternoon to find four out of five buckets were already full.

As I sent out the kids to check the buckets, my oldest daughter returned and stated, "four of them are filled with water." Maple sap is nothing but sweetened water; you don't even taste the Maple until you boil it down to concentrate the flavors.

There are four different kinds of Maple tree's that will produce spring sap flows and make Maple Syrup.

These four trees are the Sugar Maple, the Silver Maple, the Red Maple and the Ash Leafed Maple or otherwise known as the Box Elder. The Sugar Maple sap contains 3% sugar whereas the others only have half to two-thirds as much.

With the amount of time it takes to boil thirty plus gallons of sap into syrup you definitely want to use only Sugar Maples.

The sap flows best on above freezing days, particularly sunny days, following below freezing nights.

Next comes the boiling and boiling and more boiling. We set up a turkey cooker outside and after pouring the sap through a mesh screen we filled up the eight-gallon ceramic steel pot and fired up the propane until it boiled.

the sweet smell of the Maple steam waifed throughout the yard at the cabin.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

Six hours later we had about three inch's of sweet smelling Maple liquid, it wasn't syrup yet though. We poured the sweet Mother Nature nectar through a muslin funnel and brought it inside to finish on the wood stove.

Three more times throughout two days and nights we did the same thing and had three pots of semi finished sap going inside on the stove.

The Mother Natures goodness is almost finished, now is when you keep a close eye on your boil.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

This point is critical as the sugars are concentrating and the liquid is thickening you don't want to burn it or have it boil over.

The amount of finished syrup is amazingly small for the amount of sap you begin with but there is no better tasting pancakes then the ones with fresh Maple Syrup that you have labored on for three days.

The old wood stove was rockin' hot with apple wood turning sap into syrup
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

We filled up the last pot on the turkey cooker late Saturday night and set it to boil at 1:00AM and went to bed. Upon waking at 5:30AM I went to check on the sap and found nothing but ashes in the bottom of the cooker. What a waste of propane.

The turkey cooker system of boiling sap into syrup with a wind block.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

After hauling back the rest of the buckets, we still had two more full buckets that I hauled home to finish back in the city on the stove. After boiling one whole seven gallon bucket down to just three quarters of a quart and fogging up every window in the house, I gladly gave the last bucket full to a friend for him to finish.

"What do I have to put in it," he asked, I laughed and told him, "nothing, just boil it until it gets thick."

Its a lot of work for barely a gallon of Maple Syrup but as we make Apple Wine with the cider apples in the fall I put a full quart into a five gallon batch of wine then add some mint leaves for an award winning exquisite Apple Maple Mint wine.

As a wine we can enjoy the Maple week-end for years to come and when the last cork is pulled we know its time to make our 100% pure Cider Mill Maple Syrup again and it all seems worth the effort again.

The amount of finished 100% Maple Syrup from thirty gallons of Maple sap shows why it costs so much at the grocery store.
(MyBayCity Photo by Kevin Leahy)

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