How to Boil Sap Into Maple Syrup

It takes about 10 gallons of sap to equal 1 quart of maple syrup.If you’ve never investigated the making of maple syrup, the statistic above may surprise you. The sap is mostly water, you see, and the time-consuming task of turning sap into syrup is all about evaporating the water so that mostly sugar remains. In the words of my son, “It takes a TON of sap to make syrup for my pancakes!”

And that’s why he was so excited on day one of what has become an annual pilgrimage to the trees. Nighttime temperatures were 24 degrees, and they soared to 39 and sunny the next day. That’s the day we tapped about nine maple trees. The next evening we investigated and were pleased to collect a little more than 10 gallons of sap. The boys (the big one and the little one) were so excited they began boiling right away.

2The tree taps are attached to blue tubing that drips into buckets. Here’s part one of this maple syrup series. It describes how we drilled the holes, inserted the spiles and began the collection process. Dripping began on one big ol’ tree almost immediately. The others stood firm until noon the following day when the warm sun coaxed steady drops into our buckets.

Maple Syrup SeasonBefore we go on, let me just say we are certainly not professionals (not that you would think so, but I just want to be clear!). In fact, we’re not even well-seasoned maple tappers. We’ve been doing this for a few years, though, and each year we get a little better, a little bigger and slightly more efficient. I will say this is not a very economical process and yeah, it would probably be much easier on the wallet to buy our syrup from people who do this for a living. On the other hand, it’s a pretty cool process and the kids enjoy it. Fact is the hubby and I do, too. I mean really … you tap a little spigot into a tree, liquid runs out and it boils into syrup and/or sugar. It’s a minor miracle. Trust me when I say making it yourself increases the flavor factor immensely!

Also of note: it is perfectly acceptable to boil sap in pajamas.

3Last year we had much smaller amounts of sap and I boiled it on the stove. We began the process in my enamelware canner, then slowly decreased to a large stock pot, and then finally to a soup pot as the water evaporated and our liquid decreased in volume. Since we went big time this year ahem!,  we invested in an outdoor propane burner and a very large stock pot.

5As the first bucket of sap boiled, we continued to add the contents of our other five gallon bucket. And it boiled and boiled and boiled into the night, through the night, and on into morning.

4By mid-morning the remaining sap was ready to transfer to my canner. It started raining, too, so we brought the sap inside to finish on the stove. If doing this inside, be sure to turn on your stove vent. You’re releasing a lot of moisture into the air and you don’t want to damage ceilings or anything else in your home. Also, it helps keep a sticky residue from settling over the general vicinity!

I have to note here that we boiled sap on the day the interminable snow began melting. Birds were singing, sunrise was spectacular, and there was a definite spring in my step as we made our way to sweet, sweet syrup.

6Two things to note when boiling maple sap:

  • Do not put a lid on your boiling pot of sap — water needs to evaporate
  • Filter several times throughout the boiling process

We filtered the sap at the beginning, each time we added more sap to the boiling pot, and each time I changed containers as the volume decreased. Cheesecloth is a recommended method, but coffee filters will work in a pinch. The longer you’ve been boiling, the thicker the sap, so paper coffee filters will only work at the beginning of this process. There are professional maple syrup filters available online. They’re pricey, so we make do.

7I boiled the remaining sap on the stove for about four hours. Over time, the color begins to change and you will start to see that beautiful, golden mahogany color coming on. Be sure to skim the foam off the top as it boils. No need for those impurities to be floating in there with the good stuff!

8Finally, after hours of mild labor and an awful lot of propane, the syrup reached desired temperature, typically 7.1 degrees above the boiling point. I stopped ours at about 219 degrees and poured it through my canning jar funnel into a quart jar. At this point you can allow it to cool and then enjoy right away, or put it in a hot water bath and seal the jar for long-term storage. If you decide to use your syrup immediately (or within days), be sure to store it in the refrigerator.

9And that’s how we make maple syrup. We don’t have a real sugar shack, but the fruits syrups of our labor are very fine, indeed! Be sure to read part one of of this maple syrup series. And give tapping a try. It’s good, clean, family fun!

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How to boil sap for Maple Syrup


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1 Comment

  • comment-avatar
    Susanne March 13, 2015 (2:41 pm)

    I can only imagine how tasty this is – – I’ll think of this when I pour the maple syrup from Trader Joe’s on my weekend pancakes! Probably the difference between apples and oranges………..