How To Make Maple Syrup
Just the title of this post makes me feel like Laura Ingalls in “The Little House In the Big Woods”.
That’s not a negative, just in case you were wondering! 🙂
Despite the fact that it takes a TON of sap, and a good bit of time to make maple syrup, it’s actually quite an easy project.
Most of the time is not “hands on” time, so I can still clean my house, make supper, and take care of my normal homestead chores while it boils down. That’s my kind of project!
You can get quite technical with terms and methods for making maple syrup, but I am going to give you the very basic old-fashioned technique that requires no fancy equipment.
You will need:
- A large pot for boiling. I am using a 3.5 gallon stock pot since I am doing such a small batch. For larger batches, a shallow wide pan is best.
- A heat source. Again, since this is a small batch, I am using my electric stove top. For larger batches I would make a makeshift stove top with cinder blocks outside, and build a fire underneath. You can also use a wood stove, but since there is no vent above a wood stove, there will be a good bit of humidity put into your house. (Not necessarily a bad thing when dealing with the dryness of wood heat!)
- Two clean squares of felt or felted wool for straining the syrup. Make sure these are washed in a non-scented, non-toxic detergent. Any traces of toxic detergent can ruin your batch of syrup. (Try this DIY non-toxic detergent!)
- Glass jars or bottles for storing the syrup. NEVER use plastic to store syrup because it can give the syrup an “off” flavor or smell, and will leach chemicals into the hot syrup.
- Optional thermometer that has a readable scale with each degree marked in the 200-230 degree range. With smaller batches, you can “eyeball” and taste the syrup to see when it is done, but if you aren’t comfortable doing that, I suggest using a thermometer.
- Last but not least, you will need all that maple sap that you have tapped and strained! Did you know that it takes 10-12 gallons of sap to make 1 quart of maple syrup?? Crazy huh?
Fill your large pot ¾ of the way with the sap.
This keeps it from boiling over the edges and making a HUGE mess. If you have more sap that will fit in your container, place it in a smaller pan(s). I am doing a small batch, and starting with exactly 2.75 gallons of sap.
Heat your main pot of sap to a rolling boil and let it begin to reduce down.
If you have extra sap in smaller pans, heat that to a boil and add to the main pot once it has reduced down enough to create more room.
Here is my pot after boiling for an hour and a half. See how it is already getting slightly colored?
Keep the sap at a rolling boil until it has reduced by about ¾.
If you are monitoring with a thermometer, it should be 216 degrees F at this point. This will take several hours, but does not need a ton of monitoring. My small batch took almost 5 hours from the time I put it on the burner, to being reduced by ¾.
Once your sap has reduced, strain it through a square of felt.
This will get rid of the natural sediment that forms during cooking. If you are doing a very large batch, you may want to pour your sap into a smaller pot at this point. My small batch just went back into the same pot. This is also a good time to move from wood heat to a more controllable heat source if you want to.
The next step goes quickly, and needs your full attention. Turn the heat down a bit so that it is a less “violent” rolling boil, and watch the sap change consistency.
It will look a bit oily, and the bubbles will get smaller and smaller. The sap may also develop some foam at this point, and you can just skim it off. This part of the syrup making process is almost EXACTLY like making stock into bouillon. The smell is just a bit different 🙂
If you have transferred into a smaller pot, make sure you keep a good eye on the syrup, because it can boil over very quickly.
If it begins to boil over, lower the heat, and use a ladle to dip the syrup out, and pour it back into the pot. This cools the syrup, and helps to prevent over heating.
Once your syrup has reached the desired consistency- slightly thick, dark, and super sweet, (Or 219 degrees F.) it is ready to be strained a final time.
In a way, this part is a bit tricky because if your syrup is too thin, it may sour more quickly if stored at room temperature, and if your syrup is too thick it will begin to crystallize and form “maple sugar”.
However, if you are used to eating and cooking with maple syrup, it will be pretty easy to identify the right texture, color, and taste. When in doubt, you can always heat up a tiny bit of store bought maple syrup, and compare the taste and texture to your batch of syrup!
Once the syrup is finished cooking, strain it a final time through a clean piece of felt.
If you have a small amount of syrup, you can just transfer it to cold storage in your fridge. My 2.75 gallons of sap made exactly 1 cup of syrup! (Now do you see why maple syrup can be a bit expensive?)
If you have a larger amount of syrup to store, you can bottle it for long term storage.
Heat your syrup to 180-185 degrees F, and pour or ladle into hot sanitized jars or bottles. Fill all the way to the top because the syrup will shrink as it cools. Wipe the rims clean, tighten the lid, and tip upside down for a few seconds. Lay the bottles or jars on their side, and let cool for 24 hours. Turn them over once during the 24 hours.
Store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Maple syrup will keep for an entire year this way, so if you processed enough syrup, you can keep your family supplied for the whole year without using any electricity to store it! Pretty awesome!
You can also go ahead and boil your syrup until it starts to “grain” cool it, and store it as maple sugar if you prefer.
So, again. It is a bit time intensive to make maple syrup, but there isn’t much labor involved, and the ingredients are completely natural and free!
This is something we feel is so vital in increasing our self-sufficiency. Plus, it is incredibly delicious and nourishing!
This post has been shared at Thrifty Thursday, Friday Favorites, Tuesdays With a Twist, The Homestead Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop, The Home Acre Hop, Simple Lives, The Pin Junkie, Freedom Fridays, From the Farm Hop, Old Fashioned Fridays, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Wildcrafting Wednesday, and The Art of Homemaking.