The past two weeks, I’ve written about my experiences tapping maple trees in my backyard to make maple syrup, as well as some of the problems I ran into along the way. In this week’s post, all that work pays off as I go from sap to delicious homemade maple syrup.
I got a speeding ticket on the way home from work, so I was already running late by the time I got my first five gallons of sap on the burner. It was 5:30, and a crisp sprinkle of snow pattered the brown grass around my turkey fryer.
According to my downloaded directions, sap becomes syrup at 7¼ degrees above the boiling point of water. Boiling point can change slightly, so step one was to note the temperature my sap started to boil and do the math.
The sap raced to 200 degrees in 30 minutes according to my digital candy thermometer. Within an hour it had reached a rolling boil at 209. That meant my target temperature was 216 to 217 degrees.
The turkey fryer’s blue propane flame glowed as the sticky crackle of the boiling sap gave the night a lazy rhythm. Despite the frigid February night, I hesitated to leave the pot untended after hearing horror stories of burned sap and ruined pots.
At 7:30—about two hours in—my flashlight revealed the sap’s brownish tinge. I was making syrup!
I thought I was close, but then things slowed way down. By 10:00 the gallon of dark brown sap remaining hadn’t budged from 210 degrees. A friend had told me that it goes quick in the end, so I decided not to risk burning my sap with the powerful turkey fryer and headed for the stovetop.
Looking back, I could have left it in the turkey fryer a little longer. I didn’t foresee the time it took to boil off three quarts of water on an electric stove—not to mention the sticky residue on my stove hood.
By 11:30 the quart of remaining sap stubbornly held at 211 degrees. At this point I was beginning to question my methods, not to mention my sanity.
At midnight I was finally rewarded. The temperature began a steady march to 217 degrees. This was the “quick end” my friend had warned me about. Any distraction from my gentle stirring at this point could have resulted in burned syrup.
My candy thermometer beeped when it reached 217. I poured my first pint of maple syrup into a mason jar. It had taken me six hours to make one pint of syrup from 40 pints (5 gallons) of sap. Not bad for my first time.