2018 was our second year of collecting maple sap. (You can read about last year’s experience here.) In late December, we tapped three maple trees on the hill beside our house. For most of January and February, we collected sap each time there was a flow. Checking the buckets involved hiking around the hill, which was easy for the kids; but when the buckets needed to be emptied, I required a walking stick to manage the climb.
Finding a bucket half full of sap was exciting!
After emptying the metal bucket into a plastic bucket to bring to the house, the sap was poured through cheesecloth to remove bits of dirt and insects.
Because we were only getting sap from two trees (The third tree never did flow.), we decided to freeze all the sap and boil it down at the end of the season. Over the two months, we collected approximately eleven gallons of liquid.
A little over a week ago, when I had a full day to be close to the stove, the boiling process began. Around 8:30 AM, I started two stock pots on medium-high heat.
Throughout the day, when there was more room in the pot, more sap was added. At around 9:00 PM, the sap had boiled down to one smaller pot remaining. By a little after 10:00 PM, the sap was thickening; and when it dripped off a spoon in a sheet (similar to making jam), we had syrup!
From approximately eleven gallons of sap, we ended up with one cup of syrup.
A few days later, we ate our own maple syrup on homemade pancakes and waffles. While my husband and boys enjoyed the taste, our daughter and I felt like the syrup had an “off” flavor. I’m not sure if I cooked it a bit too long, or if we could have collected some sap on a warmer day, or if the taste varies from tree to tree.
The experience of processing maple sap to syrup was fun and educational. I have new respect for the time and effort that goes into processing large quantities, and I now understand why the cost of real maple syrup is high. Every season is a learning process, and we look forward to trying again next year!