Written By Tom Pavlesich.

Posted on February 20th, 2017.

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I learned a ton of lessons by the close of my first maple tapping season. Some came from the advice of friends. Others came through epic failure. Here are a few of my favorites.

I learned a ton of lessons by the close of my first maple tapping season. Some came from the advice of friends. Others came through epic failure. Here are a few of my favorites. Hopefully my trials will help you enjoy your first experience with maple syrup:

  • When the average outside temperature was around 30 degrees, I stored my sap for three or four days in 5-gallon buckets. It stayed clear and I could wait until the weekend to boil. But when the average daily temperature pushed into the high 30’s and 40’s, I would only keep sap around for two days tops. Any longer at the higher temperatures and the sap started to get cloudy, which affects taste.
  • I used a turkey fryer in my backyard to boil sap. The February wind stole all the heat, but I couldn’t exactly build a sap house. My solution? I bought 22 cinderblocks and made a mini sap house around the burner. It held in the heat and had the added benefit of keeping my kids away from the pot of boiling sap perched on the narrow burner.
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  • Since I used a big pot to boil sap, I found it useful to notch my steel stirring spoon so I could figure out how much sap remained at any given time during the boil. This way I didn’t get caught trying to pour a gallon of hot sap into a two-quart pot for finishing on the kitchen stove (It happened. Not fun.). To notch the spoon, I poured two-quart increments of water into my big pot, measuring and notching as I went.
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  • I never understood the phrase “freshen the pot” until a friend and veteran maple maker told me about it. Here’s what he suggested. I would boil 5 gallons of sap down to 1 gallon of “almost syrup.” The next day I “freshened” my pot with new sap and boiled it down again. The advantage to doing this is that the “almost syrup” is much less likely to spoil than raw sap, allowing me to wait to do the stovetop finishing boil over the weekend when I had more time.
  • The drawback (depending on your taste) to my freshening approach is that it gave my syrup a darker color and stronger maple flavor than if I’d boiled start to finish in one night. When I took small batches all the way from sap to syrup in one night, I got a lighter colored syrup with a delicate, vanilla-like flavor.
  • Foaming was a big problem for me, especially when I got to the stovetop boiling stage. I had to stir constantly and keep a close eye on the syrup, otherwise it would foam and burn. The same friend who mentioned freshening the pot suggested using a drop of oil to break the surface tension and prevent foaming. I followed his advice, and it worked great.

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