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How to Make Maple Syrup
Ever find yourself sitting there enjoying a stack of pancakes dripping with melted butter and maple syrup (getting hungry aren’t you?) and find yourself wondering, “I wonder how maple syrup is made?” …. Ya me neither. However, on the off chance you’re out of maple syrup and the apocalypse comes tomorrow and you find yourself sitting down to a nice hot plate of delectable pancakes while your better half fends off the zombie’s trying to get at your brains, you might find yourself wanting some maple syrup. Fear not, after reading this, you’ll not have to go maple syrup-less for the rest of your short life.
What you need :
* Maple Tree
* A bucket or other collector
* Drill and drill bit
For boiling sap (preferably outdoors)-
* A syrup or candy thermometer or a
syrup hydrometer (for testing to see
when your syrup is done)
* Wool or Orlon (optional – for filtering)
Step 1 : Find a Maple tree. The best kind of maple trees for making maple syrup are Sugar Maples (If you haven’t already guessed- it has a high sugar content), Lacking Sugar Maples, some other types that produce tasty sap are Red Maple, Silver Maple, Black Maple (seriously, who named these things: sugar, red, silver, black; how inventive) and Boxelder (wow talk about your red headed step child). Sugar Maples are generally preferred due to the extra sweetness of their sticky innards.
Step 2 : Tap that fine piece of wood. Before tapping make sure the tree is old enough. It’s just not a good idea to tap an underage piece of wood; that’s true with a variety of things, not just with maple trees. The tree should be at least 10 inches in diameter and measure at least 4-5 feet tall. Trees under 20 inches in diameter should only have one tap made per tree. Trees above 20 inches in diameter can be tapped 2 to 3 times at once. Any more than that and it’s just not healthy for the tree, again so true for a variety of things.
To tap the tree, drill a hole in the tree with a slight upward angle (so the sap can flow downwards through the hole). The hole should have a diameter of around 7/16 an inch or around 11 millimeters for you non-Americans out there. Try not to rough up the wood any when drilling. You want a clean smooth hole so the sap can flow freely. Scrapes and things along the wood inside the hole can hinder output. If you are using a sharp bit and have a steady hand, you shouldn’t have a problem. The depth should be around 1 1/2 to 2 inches (you non-americans are just going to have to look that up; I’m done being your non-metric crutch… seriously though, about 3 to 5 cm deep). Preferably, pick a place on the tree that has healthy looking bark.
Step 3 : Now hang a bucket or container of some sort to be used to collect the sap. Make sure to cover the container well so you don’t get any rain / bird poo / squirrel droppings / etc in there (unless you like that sort of thing; whatever lights your wick I guess)
You can reasonably expect to get at least 15 gallons of sap per year per bore hole. In favorable weather conditions and if you tap that wood real nice and snuggle a little after, it might even produce for you as much as 80 gallons of sap in a year per bore hole.
Don’t leave an accumulated amount of sap in the buckets for any length of time. Rather, go out and collect your sap regularly and store it in a freezer and boil it as soon as you’ve collected enough to make a useful amount of syrup. Just like milk and red-headed people, sap doesn’t do well if kept out in the sun for too long.
Step 4 : Get together a bunch of giant pots and get ready to do some boiling! If you have an extremely well ventilated kitchen, you can boil the sap in doors. However, this isn’t really advisable as boiling sap produces a surprising amount of steam so doing it outside in nature is probably best (again, that’s true about a lot of things).
Fill the pan up around 2/3 full and start boiling away. From here you will continually need to add sap as the water evaporates out.
Keep going until your sap reaches approximately 66 percent sugar content at 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the boiling point temperature where you are (the temperature you read when the sap first started boiling). You can use a hydrometer to measure sugar content. Anything below 66 percent and your syrup will go bad pretty quickly. Anything above around 67 percent and you’ll end up getting sugar crystals forming at the bottom of your containers.
Step 5 : Filter that sweet sticky wood goo. Once you’ve got the syrup at the correct density and temperature, you’ll want to filter it through some wool or Orlon while it is still hot. Lacking something suitable for filtering, you can always let it cool and let the sediment settle to the bottom and then carefully pour the clean syrup into another container. In this case, you will then want to heat the clean syrup back up to around boiling temperature before putting it in the final storage container.
Pour the still hot syrup (170-180 degrees F, around 79 degrees C) into your sterilized canning jars until it is pretty much completely full (with as little air as possible) and then seal. Now place the jars on their sides as they cool to insure a great seal. Sealed jars of sryup can be stored at room temperature, but should be refridgerated after being opened for use.
Cleanup of your collecting buckets should never be done with soaps or detergents as this will very likely result in off-tasting maple syrup. Instead just use hot water and a scrub brush,
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