Things have been very busy here with spring trying it’s best to show up. We are still hovering in the 30’s most days but I have seeds started and we do have grass starting to green up. That said, we also still have feet of snow in places and no leaves on the trees. Spring is off to a slow start but I know from past experience that it does come every year.
Last year we were able to help friends collect and boil down some maple syrup. They also blessed us with 45 gallons of sap to boil down at home. Which we did over a propane turkey cooker. It worked great but it was expensive. This got us thinking that we could do the trees we have here in our yard. Unfortunately, the person that should have been paying attention when the leaves were on the trees dropped the ball (that would be me) and forgot to see what kind of Maple trees we have. Fortunately, you don’t have to have Sugar Maples to get sap for syrup. In fact you can use Birch and Black Walnut also. So we decided to give it a whirl. We knew we wouldn’t get a lot of syrup in the end with only 4 taps and because we got started a little late, the sap had been running a week by the time we got our taps in.
Our taps looked a lot like everyone else’s, but our method of boiling down changed from last year. We decided to burn it down with wood in a homemade rocket style stove. Rocket stoves burn very hot with just a little wood. Here is a series of photos to show you how we did it (or rather how the hubby did it).
The screen allows for air flow. The wood will sit on top of that and burn. Any ash will fall through. The dirt is to keep a good draft going. This isn’t the correct method for a rocket stove, but we used the materials on hand. We have built less permanent ones in the ground which work very well because the ground keeps the heat in the bricks and helps it burn hotter.
The sap boiled down very quickly with just a few sticks and small branches from the yard. FREE! Unlike propane.
In the end we only got 3 yummy pints. I boil the jars to put the boiling syrup in them and then I invert jars. I only do this when I can maple syrup, lard, and grape juice because I don’t actually put these in a canner. I use the heat of the contents to seal the jars. Maybe this isn’t the way it is supposed to be done but it is the way my mother-in-law taught me and she has done this for 65 years.
The season was short and we were late getting started. Our neighbor saw us tapping and offered her trees for next year. You can bet that the person in charge of checking leaves will be a little more diligent this year.