Once you have collected sap from your own sugar bush, you are ready to begin making maple syrup.
Select your spot to create an outdoor fire pit — alternatively a shed with a heat source. Be warned however, if you’re making syrup inside a shed, sap evaporation will result in a sticky film on walls, floors and furniture. That’s why momma never allows us to make large batches in the house!
The Evaporation Process of Making SyrupAdd your sap to a large pot and begin boiling down the sap over a good hot fire. While cooking, skim any froth that accumulates on the top of your sap with a strainer and discard.
When making maple syrup, the sap cooks down and thickens, add more sap if you have it, to keep the process moving. When you are out of raw sap and the syrup in the pot is thickening up to the desired consistency, you may want to take the entire job inside to a conventional stove for more precise temperature control.
(This of course is only at the very end, as most of the evaporation has already taken place.)
The nearly done maple syrup will be ready to be moved to the finishing pot when it reaches the temperature of 6 degrees above the boiling point of water. (This varies upon your location and altitude, a candy thermometer will help you determine the correct temperature, but many of the old timers just ‘wing it’.
Feel free to guess as well, as long as you’re not trying to sell your finished syrup.)
Finishing Off – The Final Stage of Making Maple Syrup
To ‘finish’ simply means to filter. Pouring the syrup through fabric removes ‘sugar sand'; or calcium compound common in sap. You can use a double thickness of cheesecloth for this job, or any other fine meshed, clean fabric that will allow liquid to pass through while holding back sand grain sized impurities.
Some folks swear by filtering twice – once when moving the syrup into the finishing pot, then again when pouring into storage containers.
Storage of Your Delicious Syrup
Making maple syrup at home is fun but what will you do with it all when you’re done? Syrup can be frozen but could turn into sugar crystals, separate, or dry out in the freezer. In the refrigerator, in standard syrup bottles the syrup stays fresh for 3-4 months without losing taste, consistency or quality. In either situation let the syrup cool off on it’s own to room temperature before chilling or freezing.
The best bet for maple syrup storage however is the ‘canning’ method of preservation. Your syrup stays fresh for a full year using this method. To can, allow the syrup to cool itself to no less than 180 degrees. Then pour into hot, sterilized mason jars, sealing with a standard, softened lid (they come with the mason jars or can be bought separately) and allow to cool on the counter before moving into a storage area. Storage should be dark and cool.
Determining the Quality of Your Maple Syrup
The highest grade syrup (fetching the best price) is so light in color it resembles apple juice – the result of quick evaporation. A richer tastier syrup (in my opinion) is syrup of the darker variety.