How to Make Maple Syrup. Getting the Sap to Become Syrup.

Maple syrup!  I’ve done it!  I’ve made Maple Syrup with my own bare hands.  My own  Little House in the Big Woods, slightly stumpy hands.  And I’m going to teach you how to make maple syrup too.

Skip right to the Quick Guide.

If you’re here because you want to know everything about making a little bit of maple syrup from your own tree go and read this guide I’ve written on all you need to know about making maple syrup then I’ll meet you back here.

It was actually rereading the Little House series that finally convinced me to make Maple Syrup from the enormous black maple tree in my backyard.  At the end of every winter, Ma, Pa, Laura and Mary would head out into the woods to gather sap, bring it inside and make sugar.

Yes  sugar.  They also made Maple Syrup, but the main reason they tapped trees was to provide enough sugar for themselves for the coming year.  They also had in the house, a small bowl of “store sugar” for when company came.  Store sugar, being refined white sugar they bought at the General Store, that was only taken out for special occasions.  You know.  When someone killed a hog or invented the wheel or something.

My how the times have changed.  Firstly, I can guarantee if anyone gets overzealous with their use of my homemade maple syrup I *will* go all Laura Ingalls on their ass and shove a pinnafore down their throat until they choke on it.

Ahem.  You see, this maple syrup making is quite a time consuming process.  It’s not hard.  It’s not terribly labour intensive.  It just takes a long time and fairly constant attention.  And a touch of insanity.   So I’m good there.

Before I give you the step by step instructions on  how to make Maple Syrup, I’ll let you know NOT to make maple syrup. I ended up doing around 4 batches of Maple Syrup that went horribly wrong for a variety of reasons.  So my mistakes will save you from doing the same.

Tap your trees and gather your sap, like I showed you in this post.  In that post I also tell you which trees you can tap to get sap so if you’re new to all of this read that post first.

 

Find a suitable place and method to boil down lots of sap over a long period of time. Here’s where I made a few mistakes the first and second year.

  • I tried my BBQ.  It didn’t work.  It wouldn’t get hot enough.
  • I tried my smoker.  It didn’t work.  It wouldn’t get hot enough (because the lid had to be open to accommodate the large pot)
  • I tried a vintage, barely legal, probably not legal in fact, hot plate.  It didn’t get hot enough.
  • I tried the gas stove inside.  Worked! I was trying to avoid this option because I’d been warned about how much sticky steam boiling sap produces.
  • The 3rd year making Maple Syrup I tried using a propane tank fuelled burner outdoors.  Worked!

In this, my 6th year of making Maple Syrup, I recommend you go with a combination of the 2 methods that worked for boiling down your sap.

  1.  FIRST get the majority of your boiling done outdoors with a propane fuelled burner or a wood pit if you have one.
  2. SECOND do the last bit of evaporation inside the house on your regular stove where you can comfortably keep an eye on it and test it for thickness.

I recommend this dual method for cooking down sap because if you do the entire boiling/evaporation process in your house every, single thing in your house WILL BE STICKY.

The first time I did this I had no other option than to use the stove.  I ended up with sap covered windows, mirrors and cats.

How to Make Maple Syrup

Materials.

A big stock pot with a lid to constantly heat up your sap.

A roasting pan or something that is shallow with a large surface area.  It needs to be at least 5″ deep.

A propane outdoor burner (optional)

A digital or manual refractometer or a hydrometer or hydrotherm. (these are all tools that will test how sweet your syrup is)

A digital thermometer

Syrup filters

Bottles for storing your homemade syrup!

 

The roasting pan is your “Evaporation Pan”.  This baby will be the workhorse of your operation.

STEP 1.  Heat your Sap up in a stock pot with lid.  (It just heats faster if you have a pot w/ a lid)  Once hot, add it to the evaporation pan.

STEP 2.  Keep your evaporation pan of sap boiling.  When it starts to evaporate, add more hot sap from your stock pot.

This process will continue the for several hours.   Just keep adding sap to the stock pot, heating it, then adding it to the evaporation pan.

 

STEP 3.  Once you’ve added all your sap to the evaporation pan and it’s looking a darker colour (like syrup) and is approximately 213 degrees, dump it all into a finishing pot.

The finishing pot is just a regular pot, but you need to use it.  It helps ensure you don’t burn your syrup, because the smaller pot (as opposed to the large surface area evaporation pan) means less chance of burning and ruining syrup.  Just trust me on this.

 

 

STEP 4.  Water boils at 212 °F where I live.  Syrup always boils at 7.1°F (3.94°C)  above the boiling point of water. When you reach that temp., you have syrup.

So when my sap reaches 219°F, it’s officially syrup.

To see what you need to boil your syrup to, do a test run with a pot of water.  See what temperature it boils at, then add 7.1°

Turn the heat down a little bit so you don’t scorch or overheat your syrup. You want to keep it at 7.1º above the boiling point of water.

Even though this is technically syrup, and most websites say it’s ready to bottle now … I found that wasn’t necessarily true.

Keep evaporating it until it becomes syrup.

Once it reaches a boil, this will happen.  That’s normal.

 

STEP 5.  Now you need to test if what you have in the pot is no longer sap, but is actually syrup.  You can test whether it’s syrup in a few ways.

The first way is by looking at how it drops off of a spoon.

When it’s syrup, the final drop off of the spoon, will just hang there for quite some time.  When it finally drops off the spoon, you will see a *tiny* thread of a tail from the drop.  Like a sperm.  A maple syrup sperm drop.

I can tell you from experience, that without having made maple syrup before, this method is really, really hard.  You can barely see it in the video, but there is a long thread from the last drip.

For sap to officially be called “Maple Syrup”, it needs to meet a sugar requirement, which is measured in “Brix”.  “Brix” is the percentage of sugar in the syrup.  Maple Syrup needs to be between 66.5% and 67.5% sugar.  Anything below or above that isn’t syrup.

If you don’t boil long enough and have a sugar content that’s below 66.5% your “syrup” will be too thin and could possibly spoil when you bottle it.  If you boil it too long and have a sugar content that’s above 67.5%, your “syrup” will crystallize once you bottle it.  So trying to “eyeball” it is difficult.  Especially with no prior Maple Syrup making experience.

 

 

To bring a bit of science and accuracy to testing your maple syrup you can use one of three tools to test the Brix level.

A hydrotherm (which is the most difficult to find tool).

A hydrotherm is a cross between a thermometer and a hydrometer.  It tests the viscosity of your syrup.  It’s what I first used for testing syrup, but now feels clunky to me.

Most professional maple syrup producers use a Hydrometer for testing syrup.  I have never used one.

For a few years I used  a manual refractometer for testing syrup and it worked well. I also used it for testing the brix (sweetness) of various vegetables I grew.

I currently use this digital refractometer to test my syrup (and my vegetables).  It’s fast, easy and doesn’t have the kind of clean up that using a hydrotherm or hydrometer has.

But if you only get a hydrometer or hydrotherm to start out with because they’re less expensive, don’t worry … they work great!

Both work similar to a thermometer only it floats.

If the red line on the hydrotherm is even with the surface of your liquid … YOU have MAPLE SYRUP!

 

If the red line is above the syrup you’ve gone too far and your syrup is too thick. You’ll need to water it down with more sap.

Your refractometer will work by simply dropping a drip of syrup onto its measuring plate and reading it.  If it measures anything between 66.5% and 67.5% YOU have MAPLE SYRUP!

Once you’ve determined you have syrup, it’s now time to …

STEP 6.  Filter your syrup.

You filter it through a felt sock with paper liners inside of it. You can get all of this stuff where you guy your maple syrup supplies.  The felt sock is $19 and the paper liners are about $1 each.  They can all be washed (in hot water with no soap) and reused.

Update:  After using the felt liner for my first few batches, I ended up getting rid of it, in favour of 3 paper liners.  I found for the small amount of syrup I was making, the felt liner simply sucked up too much of my valuable syrup.  3 paper liners, still resulted in a nice clear syrup.

The filtering process gets rid of “Sugar Sand”.

***Update:  Since writing this post I’ve read most people filter their syrup *before* boiling it down.  I tried that. I found it didn’t get rid of enough sugar sand.  I continue to filter it after getting it to the syrup state*** 

Let your syrup filter for as long as it needs to.  I leave mine for about 15 minutes.  You can clamp the filters to your container to hold it in place, or you can  just hold it.  For the last little bit you can fold your filters down, and cover everything with a towel.  Keeping the syrup  hot as it filters helps it go through the filters easier and ensures you get every last bit of syrup out.  Do not squeeze the filters to get the remaining syrup out.  You’ll end up  with sediment.

 

 

That right there, is your sugar sand.  Don’t eat it.  It’s gross.  (*some people eat it, but they’re gross*)

 

 

Now you have beautifully filtered, 100% pure Maple Syrup.  And it only took a whole day.

STEP 7.  To bottle your syrup to give away (as if) you need to reheat your syrup.

 

I got in the habit of filtering into a microwavable cup so I could just stick the cup in the microwave to reheat it.  The less transferring from pot to pot the better.  If I were to pour this measuring cup of syrup into a pot to reheat it, I’d lose syrup.

 

 

TIP: I didn’t find any instructions about bottling your syrup that said to heat your glass bottles.  However, being a canner, I decided to keep my bottles in the oven until it was time to fill them.  (lids weren’t in the oven)

 

 

STEP 8.  Things are about to get real.  You can now, FILL YOUR BOTTLES. 

 

 

Lay your bottles on their sides to sterilize the underside of the cap and help seal.

 

Now you have beautifully bottled Maple Syrup to give away to all your neighbours.

Or, in this case, you have beautifully bottled Maple Syrup to hang off of a neighbour’s door knob while you take a few quick pictures, then ran away.  With your bottle of Maple Syrup.


QUICK GUIDE: MAKING MAPLE SYRUP

STEP 1.  Heat your Syrup up in a stock pot with lid.  (It just heats faster if you have a pot w/ a lid)  Once hot, add it to the evaporation pan.

STEP 2.  Keep your evaporation pan of sap boiling.  When it starts to evaporate, add more hot sap from your stock pot.

STEP 3.  Once you’ve added all your sap to the evaporation pan and it’s looking a darker colour (like syrup) and is approximately 213 degrees, dump it all into a finishing pot.

STEP 4.  Water boils at 212 °F where I live.  Syrup always boils at 7.1°F (3.94°C)  above the boiling point of water. When you reach that temp., you have syrup.

STEP 5.  Now you need to test if what you have in the pot is no longer sap, but is actually syrup.  You can test whether it’s syrup in a few ways.

STEP 6.  Filter your syrup.

STEP 7.  To bottle your syrup to give away (as if) you need to reheat your syrup.

STEP 8.  Things are about to get real.  You can now, FILL YOUR BOTTLES.

 

Maple Syrup Making Tips

  1. Do not use a teflon evaporation pan.  (I started with one, all the teflon boiled off of it, so I moved onto a regular roasting pan)
  2. Keep an eye on things once you get around 217 degrees F.
  3. If you plan on eating your syrup right away and not bottling any for future use, you don’t really need a hydrometer or hydrotherm.  However, if you DO want to bottle it to save and give away, a hydrometer/hydrotherm is necessary.
  4. Save your sap outside in food safe buckets (providing it’s cold enough out) and make as large a batch as possible.
  5. Sap will run faster some days (warm & sunny) and slower others (cold & dark)
  6. Make as big a batch as possible.  It’s much more difficult to work with a small amount of sap.
  7. I boiled 40 litres of sap and ended up with 3 cups of syrup.   Yes I know.  I’m mixing measuring units.  Enough for 2 medium and 2 small bottles of syrup.  It took 3 days of collecting and 12 hours of boiling.
  8. If anyone asks you if they can have a bottle smile and say Sure! Then completely ignore their request.

Special thanks to Terry from www.sugarworks.ca for his help and talking me down from the ledge a few times.  Also thanks to reader Maria from Boothman Sugar Orchard for doing the same.

→Hey there! GET MY POSTS emailed to you 3 times a week←

Pin6K
Share418
Email