Maple Syrup

The making of our first batch of maple syrup of the season.

2004 March 12

Every spring we tap a few of our maple trees to make maple syrup. We don't take it seriously; more as a ritual — a rite of Spring. But in our humble opinion, we make damn good syrup.

We tapped 7 trees last weekend (March 7) and collected the first batch of sap yesterday. This is about a week earlier than the last couple of years. We keep reducing the number of trees we tap. We usually end up with several litres of syrup, which is more than we need.

Drilling maple tree for tapping

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Diana drilling one of our maple trees for tapping. We used to use a brace and bit, but the cordless drill is much easier. (But Diana still prefers the brace and bit.)

positioning sap bucket on spile

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Positioning the sap bucket on the spile. The alert botanist will note that the tree is actually a red maple — Acer rubrum — rather than the more usual sugar maple — Acer saccharum. You go with what you've got.

putting cover on sap bucket

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Putting the cover on the sap bucket. Cordless drills! Plastic snow shoes! Plastic toboggan! What further sacrileges are in store?

13 litres of fresh sap in a stainless steel pot on an electric stove

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How about 13 litres of fresh sap in a stainless steel pot on an electric stove?

13 litres of sap reduced to a litre

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A considerable time later, the sap has been transferred to a smaller pot for the final boiling. The boiling should be a single batch process; do not dilute concentrated sap with fresh sap and then reboil. Reboiling results in an undesirable edge to the taste.

The foaming transition is reached

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The foaming transition. If one were doing things properly, one would use a hydrometer to track the density (as a proxy for sugar content) and stop when the desired concentration is reached. Instead, we boil until what we refer to as the foaming transition is reached. At a certain point, the bubbles persist to the extent that the boiling sap foams up. That's when we declare it done.

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About 300 ml of finished syrup. That represents a volume reduction of about 43 to 1. ( A little less actually. The transfer of the syrup out of the last pot went a little awry and I ended up licking several ml of fresh syrup off the stove top. Don't tell Diana.)

Our syrup is dark and flavourful — no Canada #1 Light produced here! How much of this is due to our technique and how much is due to our tapping red maples, we don't know. Boiling to the foaming transition is probably going a little too far since large sugar crystals precipitate out when the syrup is stored cool for an extended period of time. But the foaming transition is an easily recognized end point that doesn't require any instruments.

We developed our methods through trial and error. We like the results; other opinions may vary. Use this recipe at your own risk.