This is a continuation of Maple Sugaring at Home Anywhere – Part 1 where we covered the surprisingly simple process of how to collect sap from just about any maple tree. Now, it’s naturally time to make that sap into syrup! Sure, you could drink it straight, but who wants to read about maple watering when you could be maple sugaring?
The way I’ve decided to do this involves boiling inside a kitchen and using a thermometer to check the temperature. I personally use a digital meat thermometer that I find works really well, but really I’m sure any kitchen thermometer is fine. Sure, the kitchen is my mom’s instead of mine since I don’t have a hood or downdraft at the moment in my under construction kitchen to take care of the steam problems, but a kitchen is a kitchen!
Maple sap becomes maple syrup after boiling it to about 7 degrees over the temperature water boils in your area. Since I’m about sea level, I boil the sap until it reaches 219 degrees since water boils at 212, though this can vary depending on where you are. If you accidentally over boil it very slightly, say to 220 degrees, all is well, just know it’s likely not going to pour out through a filter, and it will have the consistency of thin honey. Delicious, delicious honey. It takes roughly 3 hours to boil 1 gallon of sap down in a giant pot. It’s a great activity to do while making complicated or extravagant dinners. There will be humidity as a result of the boiling, but processing in smaller batches doesn’t make this much of an issue even in the Pacific Northwest, though some people prefer to process their syrup in large batches or to boil their sap down enough to put it in containers until they’re ready to boil it down to syrup with more at a time for the final processing. I personally do it in smaller batches until they’re completed since I like eating waffles with some freshly made maple syrup.
Now, I’ve read about a number of ways to do this, and most involved expensive equipment. Namely, a refractometer. While this probably works amazingly well, as someone who only recently started, I wanted to make sure I liked it and that it went well before I got involved in buying any materials I can’t use for anything else. So! Kitchen thermometer it was!
Too long; didn’t read version:
- Collect sap into a boil-friendly container
- Boil on stove or outdoor burner (for hours) until the temperature reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point of water
- Skim foam off while boiling whenever you notice it getting frothy
- Filter (if you didn’t over boil) through a coffee filter into a container. If over boiled, just pour in and embrace the woody flavor.
Alright, now down to the details.
- Maple sap
- A large pot that holds the amount of maple sap you have (when doing 2 gallons, I split it between two pots then join them into one after they boil down a bit)
- A stove with downdraft or hood or is outdoors to help deal with steam
- Towel or washcloth to clean up the steam
- Something to skim foam off with (optional, but nice if your husband can’t get used to that wood flavor) – I used a tea strainer
- Pour sap into a pot
- Boil (I use highest heat, but whatever gets it rolling is fine) for about 3 hours until the color starts getting brown
- Skim foam off periodically if you don’t like the flavor of wood (this is supposed to be minerals in the sap)
- Use thermometer to determine when the sap has reached 7 degrees above the boiling point of water (219 F where I live)
- Pour into a jar/container
If you under boil, the syrup will be very thin and pale. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re looking for a thinner, less sugary syrup. It’s still delicious on candy!
Over boil and you’ll get a weird gel. Adding water to it can sort of save it, but that’s only if you keep yourself from eating it all.
Over boil by a LOT and you get straight sugar! Yay! Sugar! 😀
See? Wasn’t that easy? Aside from a gentle learning curve with finding the perfect boil, maple sugaring at home is simple, has a very low start up cost compared to other sugaring methods (namely bees in my area where startup is about $300-400), and is delicious! That said, my mom and best friend are going to be bee keepers this year, so I’m excited to see how that goes!