Every year, all of the syrup farms in Maine host a "Maine Maple Sunday" event - a day dedicated to showcasing this year's finest maple syrup. For our family, Sunday was a little busy so we're opting for Maine Maple Saturday instead.
Farms usually open their doors to the public for a day full of sampling, showing, selling, and sharing the maple sugaring process. Sugar shacks, where sap is boiled and evaporated, are the highlight of the day. Syrup-makers can demonstrate how the sap is boiled off to create various grades of maple syrup (from darker to lighter, with varying flavor profiles).
While our operation is not currently big enough to warrant visitors, this year we did invest in a larger homemade sap evaporator for the whole family to use, along with our friends over at Hillside Farm. We all split the yield, as we all contributed to it. It's kind of like a "syrup share". This is especially helpful as it on average, takes 40 gallons of sap, to make 1 gallon of syrup.
In total, this year we tapped approximately 15 trees between three properties. The late winter in Maine this year was icy and frigid until just recently. We're just now beginning to see the warmer 40-60 degree days with cooler nights in the 30's. That's prime time for running sap.
The process of maple sugaring is slow going. It will take most of a day to boil down the sap, especially at this quantity. The sap has to reach a desired temperature of 219 degrees Fahrenheit. You can test this, by using a candy thermometer.
Once the boil has reached the ideal temp, you will see a change in the sap from a clear, water-like liquid, to the more golden brown syrup we all know and love. The syrup will thicken as it cools.
We store ours in mason jars (like everything else in our house). Syrup is pretty shelf-stable. It can last a long time, especially if kept refrigerated, though it is not a necessity. It does not need to be water-bath canned, but it can be.
Pro Syrup Tip: Keep your open syrup in the freezer - when you pour it on your pancakes, it will drizzle so beautifully, Aunt Jemima would be jealous!
Aside from pooling syrup on your pancakes, you can also use it for the following:
ice cream topping (especially on French vanilla)
in baking recipes
to sweeten a pie without sugar (natural sweetener!)
Here are some photos from our family's 2019 Maine Maple Saturday:
We canned our syrup in mason jars after filtering it through a coffee filter - though you can also use cheese cloth - depends on how many particles are in your syrup batch. In the end, we ended up with almost exactly the 40:1 ratio of syrup. The color, and grade, appeared to be a dark amber to me, placing us possibly on the "Grade A Dark Amber, medium" level in the below graphic:
We are certainly no pros, but we very much enjoyed practicing and look forward to doing it again next Spring! We should have enough syrup to last us through the year, and we may end up boiling down a little more at home as the last few weeks of the season wear on. We'll savor the flavor until the next tree-tapping season returns!