Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making Maple Syrup: Part 4-Boiling the Sap

This is the stage that can best be enjoyed on a cold day. How nice it was to cozy up to the fire and breathe in the maple syrup steam while the cold wind blew outside or the rain came down! Grandpa has a chair and a splash guard that he sets up on those days, so he can get nice and close and stay warm.
To boil down the sap, Grandpa Nutbrown lights a fire in the stove under the 4 tubs and begins the flow of fresh sap into the first tub. Here it warms up and continues flowing from tub to tub until it is in the fourth tub where it becomes maple syrup (or pretty close to it). 
 Here you can see where the sap is heating up and moving through the the tubes that Grandpa soldered onto the bottom of the tub. It really gets the sap boiling so much faster and when it is in a full boil, the sap is nearly shooting out of those tubes like geysers! A little bit of cooking oil drizzled on top of the sap keeps down any foam and keeps it from boiling over (which can happen quickly!).
 Because Grandpa has made his system fairly automatic, he can stoke up the fire and fill up his sap barrel and let it all boil down as he leaves for the night. When we came back in the morning, it was amazing to see and taste how well his system works. The first tub was nearly clear and tasted like sap. The second tub the colour was darker and the taste a little stronger, the third was even darker and maple-ier, and the fourth was just about syrup.
Next we got the fire going again to get the last tub as close to syrup as possible. Grandpa shut off the pipes between the third and fourth tub and unscrewed them, so we could work on just the fourth tub getting pure. Grandpa watches the bubbles on top of the fourth tub. They start out looking like tiny bubbles, like foam, on top, but as it gets closer to syrup, the bubbles get bigger, like those in the picture below. At this point Grandpa gets out his dipper and scoops up some syrup and then lets it drop back into the tub. He is looking for a web coming off of the dipper, which tells him that the syrup is ready to take off the fire.
When the web is there, Grandpa places a sheet of metal over the fire under the fourth tub, to keep the heat down and then lifts that tub off. He then pours the syrup off into a milk pail, straining it through a thick felted cloth. This keeps out any bits of bark or debris that have made it through the process.
Before putting the tub back on the fire, Grandpa adds some fresh sap into the bottom of the tub, to keep things from burning. He then hooks the pipes back together, removes the metal sheet from the fire, and gets the sap flowing again. This process is repeated over and over again until you have no more sap to boil down. The syrup in the milk pail is then ready for a final boil on a stove inside and then bottling.

Also take a look at:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5


  1. What a fun experience :) I've always enjoyed going to the Cabin a sucre. One of Mark's dreams is to have a sugar bush we can tap. When it happens, you'll have to come teach us the tricks of the trade.

    1. Done! But you probably know more about it than me. I so wish we had sugar maples out here!

  2. This was all sooo interesting, Kris! I hope the skill never dies!


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