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Buckets of Ice to Bottles of Gold

March 27, 2011

Okay, admittedly it’s been a tough week for the maple trees and even us cold weather loving Canadians are tired of the arctic wind and below zero temperatures.  But, that’s not going to stop us from boiling down the 160 litres (40 gallons of sap we collected initially).  When it doesn’t warm up during the day the sap does not flow and this week was cold, cold, cold.  Down right cold.  We prefer to wait until we have at least 200 litres but sometimes you’ve got to go ahead as planned. 

Creating delicious maple syrup is not a challenging or complicated task.  It simply takes a good fire and some patience.  The ratio is 40 to 1, meaning you need 40 litres of sap to produce 1 litre of syrup.  Seems like a lot doesn’t it!?!   This preservation project really should be done outside because it takes such a long time to reduce and hours of boiling on the stove is likely to create a sweaty, sticky, syrupy mess that can peel paint and strip wallpaper.

We contain a fire outdoors by building a pit to fit our sap pan.  We use cement blocks, a patio slab, and piece of metal sheeting.  It’s pretty makeshift but for now  it does the trick.  There are dreams of one day acquiring a more professional operation and lots of our friends have sugar shacks and better outdoor setups but we kind of do this on the fly, in between so many other things. 

After you’ve built your fire, you can sit back for a while and enjoy a pint or two with friends but be sure to keep your fire blazing and the sap boiling.  It takes hours and hours to reduce the sap to syrup.  Our fire was lit today at about 11am and the maple syrup was in bottles by about 6pm.  You know it is ready when it reaches 7.1 degrees F above the boiling point of water (here water boils at 212 degrees F). You can hold it at 219 degrees F  for a short while to thicken it up but don’t let the temperature climb because that will create sugar crystals on the bottom and sides of  the bottle. 

Depending on the size of your pan you may be able to finish it outside.  However, today we filtered it outside but finished it inside.  It is important to filter the finished syrup using a a gravity filter made of wool or orlon.  This will remove most of the sap sand as well as any other debris.  We removed the pot from the stove once it reached 219 degrees F and working quickly we ladled the hot syrup into hot sterilized bottles. 

To ensure proper storage the syrup must be bottled at 180 degrees F so sterilizing your jars in the oven for 30 minutes at 250F  and keeping them warm until you are ready is helpful.

There are lots of tricks of the trade that we pick up from year to year by taking part in the boiling and bonding that occurs throughout our community so if you’d like to add something or ask any questions please don’t hesitate. 

Put up Total:

  • 1 x 350mL bottle
  • 6 x 500mL bottles
8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2011 10:49 pm

    I LOVE that you are posting on this. I’ve heard that even here in KS we can collect sap and boil it into syrup. There is a local workshop on it I want to attend next year. Thanks!

  2. March 28, 2011 10:47 am

    My husband and I let out a collective gasp at the last photo. Good work; it looks delicious and I can’t wait to hit up my local sugar bush.

  3. March 28, 2011 9:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, I’ve always wondered how it was done. We don’t have Maple trees back home in New Zealand. I hope one day I get the chance to hang with some sugar shackers and make some yummy maple syrup with them!

  4. March 29, 2011 12:46 pm

    Great job and gorgeous photos! I get maple syrup from Highland County, VA, just north of us. It’s our excuse to have a great day out and a fine trout dinner while attending their Maple Festival. I do make boiled cider syrup in the fall, a much more manageable project in our kitchen.

  5. March 29, 2011 10:15 pm

    Cool! I’m not quite sure where you are, but I’m going to Montreal on THursday and I hear it’s sugaring time there.

    this looks like it was a huge job. beautiful bottles of syrup!

    • March 30, 2011 10:26 am

      We’re in Northern Ontario…because of the cold weather we should expect at least one if not two more weeks of flowing sap. Yeah!! Have fun in Montreal…according to the weather report it look’s like their sap should be flowing nicely this week too!

  6. Tara permalink
    June 22, 2011 1:05 pm

    Where do you get your gorgeous bottles? Is it shelf stable when you are finished? I’m so interested in trying this, we wanted to give it a shot this year, but we couldn’t swing it in the end! Thanks for the lovely post!!

    • June 22, 2011 1:39 pm

      Thanks…it is so much fun to do, make, and eat…we would highly recommend it! Yes, it is shelf stable as long as you reach the correct temperature. We store all our jars in our cold room/pantry and refrigerate them upon opening. We purchase all of our bottles from Atkinson’s Maybe you’ll get to try it next spring? Let us know!

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