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Within the confines of this blog, you will find bits and pieces of the life and times of myself, my family and friend dear and near., far and wide, few and far between. You will find bits and pieces of my world, tho small to some, but huge to me. You will find everything from 'soup to nuts',; recipes, hobbies,crafts, gardenings,loves of my life, GrandLoves-a-Plenty, and even my pets... Sooo, if you can handle family life, enjoy the tour of my 'Stuffings'.

Monday, March 22, 2010

From Sap to Maple Syrup

                                            It's Maple Syrup Season once again. 

 This story is from a couple yrs. ago, but the content continues each year as we make Pure 100% Maple Syrup again this year.  The only difference this season is that we still have a couple feet of snow in the woods, the trails are a mess but the process continues.  Today, we canned our first batch of pure goodness in the amount of 18 quarts.
Enjoy what we do for entertainment after a terribly long winter, plus what we do for our GrandLoves~like school out of school.  Maybe, someday, they will follow tradition that has been handed down in our family for the past 4 generations, or more.  Enjoy the journey!

Every spring in the north to northeast, the maple syrup you pour over your pancakes, waffles, ice cream, is being produced. Some families, such as ours, makes maple syrup by the gallons to supply the family table as well as to sell to you. This year, that job is being undertaken at my nephew's place under the close supervision of his wife. Everyone seems to get in the act tho, whether to gather the sap, or just wait for hours and watch it cook and evaporate from sap to syrup.Don't be fooled by a label that says 100% maple syrup. By law, 100 % can have as much as 60% corn syrup added and still be called PURE. What goes into these jars, IS 100 % PURE, with NO additives. You have not had the pleasure of real maple syrup until you have tasted 100% PURE with that beautiful amber color and thinner consistency.
It all starts at the maple tree, tapped with a metal tap that allows the sap to drip, one drip at a time, into a bucket hanging from the tap. Depending on the weather, best being warm days, cool nights, the sap fills the pails. Sometimes the pails need to be emptied twice a day or more, on perfect days.
My nephew uses his tractor fitted with a hydraulic lift that carries a 100 gallon stock tank. The sap is poured through its first filter before going into the tank.
Once the stock tank is full, it is siphoned into the 250 gallon holding tank which feeds the sap by copper tubing, into the warming pan inside of the sap shack.
Most home operations, do not have the convenience of a nice sap shack as this one that houses the working end of making maple syrup. The next step is to fire up the cooker with firewood.
The warming pan is where the sap makes its first run before entering the cooking pan. It sits at one end of the fire warming the sap until at least 80 degrees. The warmer the sap, the faster the cook-off. To give prospective, it takes 15 min. to drip one inch of sap from a 50 gal. drum, so imagine how long it takes to drop an inch from a 250 gal. holding tank.
At first there is much steam, evaporation. The copula fan on the roof is whirling its best as the steam rises. This whole operation sits table height off the floor built into a brick oven, open at the top. The stainless steel sap pan sits directly on top of the flames.
During the cooking process, lots of skimming of sap scum is spooned off the top. This helps to produce a clear product and is done repeatedly.
Of course, no cooking operation can escape the 'spoon' test. Once the sap thickens into syrup, it will drip slowly from the spoon. Actually, this is the 'excuse' stage, to taste-test the syrup.
Grandma, Mom, gets to stir things up. She just can't help herself. Afterall, SHE is the Real Supervisor, having made maple syrup the past 40 some years for our family of eleven. A wooden spoon is used to slowly stir at least once....cause Grandma says. What good cook could resist? Another excuse to taste...
Back to the business end. The fire has to be tended often to maintain a constant cooking temperature. The fire is hot and deep at 20 inches of coals the length of the 2x6 foot pan with 8 inch walls. It gets raked back, shoveled back and re-stoked over and over for the next couple of days until the holding tank is empty.
20 inches of hot coals, 2 feet wide by 6 feet deep
The young supervisor watches hubby measure the depth of the sap to see how much it has evaporated before cook-off is complete.Meanwhile, hot sap, beginning to turn amber in color, smelling wonderful of hot syrup, boils away. During the waiting and waiting and waiting, lots of sap coffee, bean soup, and cakes are consumed by all.
The cooking continues until the syrup reaches 217 degrees, comes to a rolling boil, the steam dissipates, and it's time to 'pull the pan.' Timing is everything.Pulling the pan of boiling hot syrup off of a red hot bed of coals and fire can be tricky. This 2x6 foot pan takes four strong, steady people to carefully guide the pan off the fire and onto a waiting table. The fire is then covered by the fella in the back, with a sheet of tin that keeps the flames from getting away. Safety first.
The spigot on the end of the pan is opened and PURE liquid gold comes pouring out. A quick taste is caught in a cup for all to taste. The drip on the edge of the cup proves a success. The syrup is again filtered through a cloth liner and a wool filter system of bags before emptying into a 25 gallon can.
My nephew in the center is so satisfied with the success of this batch as Grandma gives approval. It sure was delicious.One more time before it goes into the canning jars and syrup jugs, it gets filtered again to produce clear, beautiful liquid gold, as we call it.
So it goes, with the 'old fashioned' way of making maple syrup for your family. It's time consuming, a love-hate relationship between the product and the producer. Sometimes, you are up in the middle of the night to stoke fires and check progress. Sometimes the fire is let to go out and restarted in the morning. All good things come to those who wait., right?
The Big operations are using pipelines, pump systems, barometric pressure, automatic everything, etc. etc. etc., to make their job easier. A whole other story. Nuff Said.

Hope you all enjoyed what we did over the weekend. It was SWEET.
God Bless


Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh Dar.... What a neat post... I have read about this before---but have never known a person/family who makes their own. How special is that!!!! AND--I'm sure it is absolutely delicious--and much better than the stuff I buy!!!!!!

Thanks so much for sharing this. I love Maple Syrup. WOW---wish I lived close enough to take a taste....


Deb H said...

They do Birch syrup up here in Alaska. It's pretty tasty too, but very expensive.

I want pancakes now!

Thanks forthe inteesting post, & for stopping by my blog t say Hi too!

Dianna said...

Thank you, Dar for this interesting post. Brings back a lot of memories for DH and myself. We've done the tapping and making the maple syrup. It is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. We always had several friends who wanted to "help", too...and you are so right in saying that unless you've had the real stuff, you just haven't had real maple syrup!

Thanks also for stopping by today and leaving me a note. You are so sweet!

Cher' Shots said...

This post sure makes me wish we lived closer to home for some of that fresh sap coffee and syrup tasting.

Deb H ~ I'm Dar's sister and our nephew and his wife whom she wrote about in this post making the syrup had lived in Alaska for several years and they made the Birch syrup of which you speak.
I also lived up there and really really miss Alaska.

~mel said...

That's it! The next cook off I'm going to be there ... maybe even sooner. I LOVED making syrup when Dad was alive and I'm sure Mom is missing him something terrible at moments like this. It was such a fun family time ... and I'm SO HAPPY to see Dave and Wendy carrying on the tradition!! AND... Don't you just LOVE LOVE LOVE their sap shack!! So cool!!!!!!

Dragonfly Treasure said...

What a great post! Very interesting, the process. Always wondered about how it was done. What a terrific family tradition.
Thanks for the visit, and yes you can borrow. :~)

madcobug said...

This was a very interesting entry. As I looked at the process it brought back memories of my parents,uncles, aunts and grandfather making sorghum syrup. They grew their own cane, cut and stripped it in the fall then ran the cane through a squeezer using horses to put it round and round to get the juice out. I remember the cook off in that big stainless steel tray. I also remember the swarms of yellow jackets you had to keep an eye on to keep from getting stung and keep away from the juice. All this was done outside. They did all their own for the family and then made it for other people also. The finished product was a beautiful color much the same color as your maple syrup which was delicious eaten with hot home made buttered biscuits. Thanks for sharing and bringing back good memories. I sure wish I had some pictures of that procedure. I was just a child back them. Helen

imac said...

How sweet.lol
Very interesting.



Shelley said...

I agree w/ you - nothing better than fresh PURE maple syrup! Yum!! There's a state park by our cabin that taps the trees every year about this time and makes the maple syrup for everyone to see. It's so interesting to see this process - and you explained it very well up above.

jack69 said...

Hey Dar! One of the best entries I have read. Great pictures and narrative. Very interesting and for sure one of the most desirable of all syrups. I never realized how critical someone else's traditions can be in timing and temps.

As a child I was introduced to Molasses cooking, but of course it is much less 'sophisticated' in process.
Sorta makes me want a pecan waffle with maple syrup ALLL over it!
Thanks again for the lesson in traditional methods. And especially a families love of it.
For all the work, I know the reward is in the jars of GOLD!
Sherry & Jack

PS: WOW that is a hot fire!!!!

Lucy said...

Great entry, Dar. Also I love Your new theme. I like butterflies. I better get off this page because those pictures of that syrup are making me hungry, and I just ate. I do not like molasses, never did but I love pure maple syrup.

Dee said...

~applause~ Thank you for sharing this 'sweet' post. I've always wondered what the process for maple syrup is. I'm still amazed at the ingenuity of being able to tap a tree and produce a food product. Very interesting. Your great pictures and captions made the info extra special too.:)

Wishing you a day of sweetness!

Suz said...

Dar thank you for your kind words about my writing...it means a lot to me.
Here in Illinois at the Ryerson property they do just that..make syrup
I took my kids there when they were little and they still remember being excited to learn how syrup was made....Thank you for sharing
But the best part was to see a family enjoyng it together

Stine in Ontario said...

I LOVE this post! The maple sap is running here too!

How strange that pure can be 60% corn syrup. What kind of logic is that? Hmmm.

holdingmoments said...

Fascinating to read. I never realised just how much work went into producing maple syrup. So very rewarding at the end of the process.

Paula said...

Bet you all eat a lot of pancakes and waffles with that gooood maple syrup. Such an interesting entry. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

The White Farmhouse said...

My husband's aunt and family used to make real maple syrup like this. What an undertaking! I got tired just reading this. Love real maple syrup though. Cudos to you that still make the real stuff!

Beth said...

Thanks for the nice visit! Glad you like my new plants. I have never used Lemon Thyme and I am looking forward to it.
I really enjoyed this post about maple syrup. Very special skill and how fun to share this with your family. I wish I could taste off the spoon too!! ;)

lil sis said...

Thanks for all the sweet memories.
Glad to see Mom was helping - her knowledge
is hard to beat when it comes to those maple trees.
Thanks for the grand tour of the sap shack - I'm
like Mel, I love it. Tell them to slap some syrup on
a flapjack and keep 'em coming! lol
Later - love ya- me

Rebecca said...

I love seeing the process through these photos!

GardenofDaisies said...

Thank you for sharing all these pictures and information with us. I love maple syrup! For many years we lived outside the country and could not get it at all and so my mother used mapeleine. (I don't know if I spelled that correctly.) But this thickened sugar water that one gets at the grocery stores these days is awful.