All the hard work of tapping trees, reverse osmosis, purchasing new pans and bottles all came down to today. I hauled out my backyard cooking set up for it’s first run.
On the left is the divided pan, specially built to fit on top of a two burner outdoor stove. It has a custom built sap warmer on top. On the right is the dual purpose finishing pan / bottling pan.
I hauled out about 12 gallons of sap concentrate at ~ 5% to 5.5% sugar.
I poured in the sap and started warming it up at 11:30 am.
Due to the burners in the middle, the outside edges of the pan never got to a boiling condition. The middle did, but not the outside. So this skewed my numbers and calculations a little. It was boiling off a whole gallon less per hour than I had anticipated. Not a huge ordeal, but definitely limits the amount of production I can do during the week after work.
With the continuous pan I have, I can see doing two full cooks in a day if I started early enough. I hadn’t due to a few people wanting to stop by and hang out in the afternoon. Which we did.
When all the sap was gone – I filled that warming pan 3 times to the top. I waited until there was an inch of sap left in the pan. In hindsight, I can probably go a little lower.
I moved the in-between syrup to the finishing pan.
Put that on the single burner and started to boil that. I’d say at this point I spent 4 hours boiling down the sap concentrate I had.
Once the temperature was up it took another hour to boil it down and get it closer to syrup. The gauge on the front was a little off but kept using my brix measurement to check the syrup. I do wish there was a better way to pour it out of the front. The ball valve isn’t the best way. Once it is syrup it seems to run fine, but before that point it wants to rush out every where.
I didn’t take a any photos of the next two steps as I had my hands full, but what I did was remove the syrup into a glass gallon container. I put the cone filter into the finisher – now turning it into a bottler. Used clamps to hold the cone filter down and poured the newly made syrup back into the bottler, through the filter. It slowly filtered – as the syrup was a bit cooler now – and took out any of the sugar sand and impurities still in the syrup. I was going to pour my syrup into some fancier glass containers and wanted it looking the best!
It was time to grade and bottle.
I bought a special setup to test the grade:
My newly made syrup is the second one from the left. It’s falling right in-between the fancy grade and the Grade A Amber. Can’t say I like this new grading system.
Used to be 4 grades, now there’s only 3 (if we drop out commercial grade on both). The old way this would definitely be a higher grade medium amber color. It’s just a touch off of fancy, but like the old Price is Right, once you’re over, your out.
All in all, I bottled a little over 1/2 a gallon of maple syrup.
Lessons learned: Do not squeeze the filter. I did on the very last bottle – and that one is mine as the squeezing pushed some of the impurities through. You can’t see in the photo but one is cloudier than the rest. It will eventually just fall out as sediment, but I will keep that one for myself and use the others as gifts.
All of this would really benefit from being inside a building or some sort of shelter from the wind. The cold on the pan really didn’t help one bit and slowed down the entire process.
Getting the sap to a higher 3:1 concentrate would also help, but not immensely. I was closer to that than I had thought previously. A higher concentrate would have saved me 3 gallons of water to boil off, so roughly an hour of time, which in turn would allow me to process more. But I truly believe I could have a bigger impact on keeping the pan warmer by being inside a shed or something on those lines.
Cleaning is a bitch.
Have a few more beers at the ready.
The whole process is more fun than you would think. Texted a few of my Canadian friends and told them that this was the beginning on what would take down the Canadian Syrup Cartel. Ready to tap a dozen more trees today and get some more sap.