So the maple sugaring story continues. This is a learning experience for us and nothing proved that more than cooking down the sap. We first tried cooking sap on an old salvaged Coleman Stove. (The woodstove you see in the barn is not yet hooked up.) We found out quickly the little stove was not up to the task when it wouldn't stay lit.
Take 2: Our grill! Our maple sugaring book lists grills as a potential good method for cooking down sap and we tried it in the very airy barn due to inclement weather.
The sap did boil and begin to evaporate....
ever so slowly. So how about some tea and treats while we wait?
In fact, why don't we tear off a barn wall and prepare it for siding?
Might as well jack up the building so when we frame the east end in, it is fairly square.
Yeh, and that's how it continued till very late at night. The grill method works, but on our tiny grill it is so so so slow.
The next day presented sunshine and really balmy February temps so we tried Take 3: cooking sap on our outdoor fire pit. First, we created a good hot coal base....
then, using what we had: an oven rack, a large stockpot leftover from Steve's beer making days and our canner, we crafted an outdoor stove.
The sap heated pretty quickly...
and started a steady, strong evaporation. Yay!
We cooked down 10 gallons on the outdoor firepit in about 10 hours. Still long, yes - but the extreme wind diffusing the heat did not help speed the process nor did our deep cooking pots. Lessons learned!
We did take time to enjoy the beautiful day and all the nature surrounding us...
After our main evaporation outdoors, we brought the super sweet liquid indoors to finish cooking. At all stages, the sap is delicious! I read many Natives would drink the sap raw though today we are cautioned against it for bacterial reasons. We are still fine. :)
Once the sap turned into syrup (we judged by stickiness to the spoon and level of foam on top; you can also use a candy thermometer to tell you when the temperature is 7 degrees F above the boiling point of water depending on where you live), we ran the syrup through a filter to separate most of the sediments.
Once the syrup starts to thicken as it cools it gets slower and slower so some assistance is necessary. We reheated once to thin it back down as well.
Look at that beautiful syrup!
We are freezing all the BPA free blue Ball plastic containers for use throughout the year. The glass jar is in our refrigerator for immediate consumption. The syrup really is incredibly delicious. There is just something in the flavor that indicates it came from our sugar maples, direct to our kitchen and into our bellies. There's nothing like it!
Stats so far: ~20 gallons of sap collected, ~112 ounces of syrup (almost a gallon!)
Oh, did we mention the sap is still flowing?!