So, you have gathered enough sap and you want start turning it into delicious syrup. We have been processing our sap over a fire for the past few years for a few practical reasons:
1. It is necessary to do it outdoors or where you are not concerned with the evaporating steam getting everything sticky. 2. The wood smoke adds to the flavor, great for glazing ham! 3. It is the most cost effective. If you decide to use a propane burner you are adding significantly to the cost of your final product.
Some Preliminary Info: Raw sugar maple sap is 2 percent sugar, 98 percent water. 10 gallons of sap will produce 2 pints of maple syrup. This is a lengthy, time-consuming process, it took us about 12 hours from start to finish. In this process you are boiling the water off and concentrating the sugar content. In your final steps, it is crucial to get the sugar water to exactly 217 degrees, which turns it into syrup. Otherwise it will remain sugar water!
Raw Sap: For this project we used 10 gallons.
2 Large Stainless Steel Pots (we use one 20 quart, and one 8 quart)
1 Medium Size Sauce Pan
Digital Cooking Thermometer
Coffee Filter (optional)
Glass Containers (to store the maple syrup)
A torch is handy, but anything to light the fire will work
We used about ten to twelve 8″x12″ sassafras logs
You’ll also need a splitting maul or ax to chop the wood into smaller sticks as seen above.
Here you see where we boil our sap on an outdoor “stove” crafted with pieces of scrap marble and a metal platform we set the pot on. Get your fire going.
Fill the 20 qt SS pot about half way up with your sap. We use a smaller SS pot to preheat the next batch of sap so it comes to a boil more quickly, which we place on the back side of our stove.
Note: We already have pots we use only for cooking over a fire, the outside of your pot will be stained black when you cook over an open fire!
Place the large pot over the fire. You see here the smaller pot sitting on a piece of marble at the back so it is ready to go once the sap in the larger pot has boiled down.
You don’t want to get your 20 quart pot too full because it is harder to keep it at a boil. As the water evaporates from the pot you will need to add the sap from the smaller pot and continue to keep the level of liquid in the 20 quart pot about halfway full.
You’ll need to put your sticks of wood in the fire roughly about every thirty minutes. It takes about one hour to boil off one gallon of water. The whole process took us 12 hours from start to finish, but it was a very windy day and therefore more difficult to keep the temperature of the fire consistent.
You will need to continue the process of adding the raw sap to the 20 quart pot until all the sap has been processed, and you have about 1/2 gallon of liquid left in the pot. Finally, you are ready to transfer your liquid gold into the medium size sauce pan to finish the process on your kitchen stove where you have more control of the heat.
Secure the cheesecloth to your saucepan and pour it in. This will filter any ash or other particles that might have gotten in the pot during the boiling process.
At this point you have about half water content and half sugar content. Put the sauce pan on your kitchen stove burner and bring the liquid back to a boil. Boil off the final quart and a half of water which will give the syrup a thicker consistency.
Now you will need to raise the soon-to-be syrup to exactly 5 degrees above boiling point which at our altitude is 217 F. At this point it will start to get bubbly and frothy. We came very close to having it boil over. To prevent this use a slightly bigger pot! Once you get it to 217 you can remove it from the heat, and it is officially maple syrup.
Wait for your syrup to cool down a bit so you don’t burn yourself. If you want your syrup to be crystal clear, place a coffee filter in the funnel and this will filter out the tiny sugar crystals in your syrup.
One final step: enjoy all your hard work with some homemade pancakes or use it to glaze a ham!