A couple weeks ago Joey got the idea that he would like to try his hand at making maple syrup. And we were just in luck when we discovered that the tree next to the back of our house is a maple tree! So Joey drilled some holes, stuck a small PVC tube into the hole to act as a spout for the sap, and hung a bucket underneath to catch the sap. And then we waited. And waited. And we got a little bit of sap flowing. And then we got a warm day and a lot of sap flowed.
We had looked at some online resources and a couple snippets out of homesteading books on how to make the sap into syrup. But we just weren't sure if we should build some kind of outdoor fire pit or risk covering our kitchen walls in sugar. So we put the sap into three 5-gallon buckets and put lids on them and stuck them in our basement. Then we read that if you can't boil the sap right away you should refrigerate it or it will start to go bad...who knew? So at 7 pm on Tuesday, Joey started his maple syrup experiment on the stove. I was hesitant about it because I was pretty sure that it would take hours for all the water to boil out.
Joey started boiling the sap in a large stock pot and then kept adding more sap as it boiled down an inch or so. And by 10:30 pm he still had a large pot of hot sap. So he took it off the burner to cool and then refrigerated it overnight. Last night he decided he was just going to try to boil down the rest of what he had and see how much syrup he could get. He started in the big pot, then went down to a medium pan, and by the time he was down to a smaller pan, the candy thermometer was around 219 degrees F, right around where the sap turns into syrup. He thought it definitely looked a little thicker, though still pretty runny, but I think he was tired of watching a thermometer all night, so we poured it through cheesecloth into a sterilized pint canning jar and sealed the lid.
We set the jar on a towel and about half an hour later heard the "pop!" of the lid sealing. With such a high sugar content, it is shelf-stable for about a year but once we open it, the syrup will have to be refrigerated. I'm not quite sure that it is the right consistency, or if we even did it right, but we are going to a maple syrup festival this weekend so hopefully we can get some more information. Also, nerd that I am, I ordered a book called Backyard Sugarin' from another library that will hopefully come tomorrow.
If all else fails, we still have 10 gallons of sap and 1 pint of liquid sugar.