From Sap to Syrup
Now that we have all that sap, we have to do something with it.
If you read our last post, then you know that we started small - a few trees and a pot on the stove...and then on a turkey fryer. Now, it's important to note that sap isn't syrup until 219 degrees. In case you're wondering, that's a LONG time to boil on a turkey fryer.
We decided it was time to be "professional" and try our hands at a small evaporator - 18 inches x 24 inches...which meant we could tap more trees...which meant we needed a bigger evaporator...and so on. Our current evaporator is 3.5 feet x 10 feet and is originally from a sugar shack in Vermont. We've had this one for three seasons now, and it sits in our "sugar shack" in Tiffin. Considering everything it took to get it in there, it's not coming out any time soon. It's a wood burning evaporator and does a fantastic job at boiling down to syrup...but Jeremy's getting the itch to find MORE trees to tap, so we'll see how long until the next upgrade.
Along with upgrading our evaporator, we've also added (and upgraded) a reverse osmosis system to the process. Without getting too technical, reverse osmosis pulls a lot of the water out of the sap before we even boil it. That gives us an advantage when it comes to boiling and reduces the amount of time and wood needed to reach syrup.
This season we also added an auto draw-off...Big League stuff. An auto draw-off does exactly what the name says: a thermometer reads the temperature in the evaporator, and at 219 degrees, it automatically draws off the maple syrup until the temperature goes down. AMAZING!!! Now, we just have to make sure we have five-gallon buckets in place to catch it.
After it draws off, we usually let it sit in the buckets for a few weeks to assist with the next step...filtration. This process used to consist of pouring a boiling pot of syrup through a set of filters into another pot...sometimes twice. AND THEN a filter would fall into the pot and we'd have to clean it and maybe even have to start all over again. Two seasons ago, we invested in a filter press. This system pumps the hot syrup through diatomaceous earth, which acts as a fine particle filter, removing any sediment. Most of you would never notice, but it has really made a difference in the clarity of our syrup.
The last step is bottling it...this is as simple and unimpressive as it sounds. The hardest part is making sure you don't spill any or burn yourself as your filling the bottles. There HAS been an upgrade to this process, but we're keeping that a secret until it's up and running...