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Old 02-13-2012, 01:58 PM
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Default Xs Maple Syrup Thread

A thread to educate all you western folks about the tasty wonder and right of spring that is Maple Syrup.

A little background, I grew up in northern MN on family land that we have had since 1910. Roughly around 1910-1911 my Great-grandpas brother became a full time resident of the area and began living off the land and all that good stuff. This included making maple syrup each year. Then around 1980 my parents moved to the area and for the first 6 or 7 years of my life my dad would cook syrup each spring. Then last year after about 20 years away from it my brother got us back into the tradition.

There are many many ways of cooking syrup from the simple (how my dad did it) all the way to how woolywag on BCR cooks it.

To make it simple syrup is cooked by boiling the sap from maple trees until most of the water has evaporated leaving behind syrup.

To start with you wait until spring time when the sap starts really flowing up the trees. I hav no idea why it is done in the spring, though I have heard the sap is sweetest then. Ideally you will have weather that sees day time temps above freezing and night temps below freezing. This cause the sap to flow at the heaviest rates, thus allowing you to collect more sap. This is key because you need roughly 40-60 gallons of sap to make one gallon of finished syrup.

So how do you get the sap from the trees? This is done by tapping the trees. Basically you drill a hole into the tree, insert a spigot of some sort and that allows the sap to flow out of the tree. Way back when it was sumack (sp) spigots and pails, now it can range from metal or pvc spigots with buckets, milk jugs and all the way to guys running what amounts to tube pipeline to a central collection point.

From there you collect the sap in various methods, we use jug to bucket to tank.

Once you have the sap, which tastes a bit like sugar water, you are now ready to cook it down. As I said you can do this in many ways, but the jist of it is you are boiling off the excess water. There is a certain temp at which the sap becomes syrup, I don't recall it. Old timers knew how to tell based off of color, smell and the way the bubbles were forming on the surface.

In the cooking you are constantnly drawing off syrup once the temp is reached and replacing it with fresh sap. This is done on the cooker which is a big pan often called an evaporator. Under the pan you usually have a heat source ranging from wood fire to gas to steam.

Once you have the syrup it needs to be filtered to clean up any sediment or other material that might be present. This can be done via cloth filters all the way up to osmosis type presses. Again I don't know much about that so hopefully Wooly can chime in. Then all that is left is to bottle and seal it up until you enjoy it.

Now the stuff you buy in a store is graded and inspected, etc. The stuff we make is not. A big difference is in the appearance of the finished product. Lots of what you buy in the store, IMO is very clear and almost golden in appearance, while ours is very dark and cloudy looking. I feel that the stuff you buy from the local market is not near as tasty as home done stuff. Also you will hear big time producers who use gas, etc tell you that there is no taste difference between their graded, gas fired syrup and a syrup like we make over wood heat. Again IMO there is a huge difference, one of them being that you can taste the affects of the wood smoke, they say you can't but after a lifetime eating wood cooked and trying gas cooked you can.

So there you have it, my simple and probably flawed explanation of maple syrup. I have a few pictures from last year. I will get some better more detailed pictures next month for this thread.

And hopefully Wooly chimes in as he does syrup on a whole other level.

This is the cooker from the front. The pan/evaporator is sitting on top.


My oldest daughter helping collect sap


Close up of the tap and collection process


And the most important part, family!!! Grandpa and my son...though I recall doing more work then he is doing.
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Last edited by xrated; 02-13-2012 at 02:04 PM.
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:13 PM
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Awesome thread...thanks now I'm hungry
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Old 02-13-2012, 08:02 PM
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X i was thinking about putting a thread up like this ,,, i'll post up pics of our operation ,,, kinda neet to show the fun family sugering , to the comercial operation we have ,,, honestly ,, I have never boiled w/ anything but oil or now steam ,,, i want to check out some wood fired rigs
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Old 02-14-2012, 01:32 AM
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X i was thinking about putting a thread up like this ,,, i'll post up pics of our operation ,,, kinda neet to show the fun family sugering , to the comercial operation we have ,,, honestly ,, I have never boiled w/ anything but oil or now steam ,,, i want to check out some wood fired rigs
I will get a bunch of pics up for ya. I'm headed up this week so I can get shots of it not cooking as once it gets going the steam really wrecks the shots. Also try and get out and take some pics of the first cooker and then my dads to compare how far even the small outfit has come.

Let me know and I can have my brother type up a description of our cooker since he got it all together and will know more.
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Old 02-14-2012, 06:08 PM
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Here are a couple shots showing how our wood cooked syrup looks in the jar.



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Old 02-16-2012, 07:18 PM
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well a good time for this post for sure , now a look at a "large" operation in the east Vermont to be exact , we are around 12,000 taps this year , and actualy not a big operation for here , there are several operation over 50,000 and some are over 100,000 , Maple is big buisness here for sure , we are scrambling now as it was almost 50 today , we took in around 3000 gallon of sap today and it will run all night , So ,,, heres how we do it , no buckets ,, all pipeline gravity and vaccum assisted we have 2 pump houses where the sap comes in and is pumped back to our tank house because all the lines are under vacum we use "releasers" to get the sap into the holding tanks, this is the 1 over our 3000 gallon dump tank it has to cahmbers that switch back and forth so no vaccum is lost , we run around 26" of vaccum , this is provided by these 2 10hp 3 phase pumps . These are the 2 5000 gallon storage tanks
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:25 PM
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Can you take too much sap from the trees?
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:51 PM
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next the sap is run through Reverse Osmosis , by pumping it thru a membrain under high pressure seperating the "suger" and the water (forgot to get a pic) , most operations use direct flame to boil , wood or oil is used , we use steam that is generated by a 200HP (2 million BTU ) oil fired boiler steam at 32# is fed to a custom built 6' x 8' 8 pass "pan " chity pic i know ,,,,, this produces 150 + gallons of maple syrup per hour it is then filtered thru a filter press and "canned" in these 55 gallon drums and then it of to the buyer ,,, last year we made around 4600 gallons of syrup , and of course i got to represent
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Old 02-16-2012, 08:08 PM
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we need more pics. wooly how far can you draw the sap from? all these trees on his parcel of prperty?
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Old 02-16-2012, 08:10 PM
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Damn wooly you all get with it when it comes to syrup. Thats what I miss most about living in Maine, real maple syrup. Whats that stuff going for a gallon this year?
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