Our first batch of Big Leaf Maple syrup is very, very tasty…
Some things I did not know about making maple syrup…
1. The sap when it first comes out of the tree is really watery – somehow I thought it was more like thick, sticky sap like the stuff that gets stuck in your hair if you climb pine trees on warm spring days. It’s more like water.
2. Sap doesn’t drip slowly and take forever to collect. If you hit a good vein (or whatever the appropriate term is…), it virtually gushes out of the tree. The little wine bladders we initially used were way too small and we’ve switched to 18 liter water jugs.
3. The flow varies widely from tree to tree, from day to day, and depending on time of day, temperature, and recent temperature fluctuations…
4. It takes about 40 liters of tree sap/water to make about 1 liter of syrup, which is why all that maple syrup making back east used to be done outdoors (that’s a whole lot of steam to fog up your windows). Boiling maple syrup is probably still done outdoors for that reason. We set up a hot plate on the deck for the first phase of boiling and only moved the pans inside as we got close to the end.
5. It takes FOREVER to boil off 39 liters of water.
6. It takes a nanosecond to go from boiling water to scorched syrup! At the end, the temperature rises very quickly as the percentage of sugar increases and it’s really easy to overshoot the mark, burn the syrup, and lose a whole batch! With four of us watching over the bubbling pots and alarms set on digital thermometers, we dodged this particular bullet, but I can see how easy it would be for everything to go terribly wrong.
7. Does it taste like maple syrup? Yep. Except with a stronger flavour – there’s a sort of woodsy undertone that is richer than the store bought pure maple syrup from back east. There is no comparison to regular pancake syrup made with corn syrup – that is very sweet, but has none of the complex flavour of this stuff!
8. Are we happy campers? Oh. Yes. Indeed.
9. Will we have any for sale? Maybe not this year – we started this whole tapping/boiling process a bit late in the season, but next year we’ll get started in November. Because we are on the west coast we can collect from November to early March, which gives us a whole lot of raw material to work with. This has been a great test, though – we’ll keep sugaring for the next couple of weeks and learn what we can and then next year we will start early and see how much we can produce.