So, after we have all the trees tapped it is just a matter of waiting for the sugar water to start flowing. This year we had a fairly long season, thanks to the weather being colder longer. When the nights are freezing and the days are above freezing with little wind we were collecting our buckets once a day.
The method for collecting changed this year because of how many more trees were tapped. This year we used two food grade 50 gallon barrels strapped into the back of the truck. Once and a while we had to strap one of the barrels on the front of the tractor to make it out to the trees because of all the snow and mud we had, but we got there. :) We would empty the sugar water into 5 gallon buckets and then pour them into the barrels on the truck. For us this worked out really well although, for next year we might have to upgrade to three 50 gallon barrels to have enough space to store all the sugar water in between boiling down batches.
When things were really flowing we would boil down 2-3 times a week. There are a lot of clever ways I have seen people set up to boil down sugar water. This is what our set up looks like.
My husband took an old oil barrel and cut out a little door on the end to put wood in and also cut out the hole in the top for the pan to fit into. The pan has been around Polyface for a couple decades. Daniel had it made when he started harvesting maple syrup years ago. It is a stainless steel pan 6″deep x 3′ wide x 4′ long and holds about 30 gallons of sugar water. The boiling down usually lasted most of the day for us. It is important to keep the fire hot and have your sugar water constantly boiling. Toward the end of boiling down we have to keep a close eye on the syrup to make sure it doesn’t get too thin in the pan and burn. When the syrup gets thin we quickly pull the pan off the fire and transfer it to a big stock pot. At this point we strain the syrup through fine cheesecloth to filter anything out. Usually the syrup still needs to boil down for another hour on the stove top to reach the correct brix level.
We warm up jars in the oven and when the hydrometer says the syrup is done, into the jars it goes!
The next part is the best, we mix up a batch of our favorite pancakes and slather them in maple syrup! Couldn’t ask for sweeter results!