Tag Archives: maple sugaring

History of Maple Sap Evaporators

The First Maple Syrup Production

1297816607066_ORIGINAL
Sap being boiled in a log
  • Logs were filled with sap and then hot stones were added to boil the sap.
  • Hot stones would continue to be added until there was a large enough quantity of syrup produced.
  • Myths suggest that eastern woodland Indians such as the Iroquois began boiling sap that the Creator had provided for them.
  • In 1775 a young colonist was captured and witnessed the Indians boiling what is now know as maple syrup.

History of The Evaporator

a6-03
Settlers pouring sap collected in buckets into a kettle
  • —Written accounts of sugaring date back to 1557, the exact origins are unknown.
  • —Multiple kettles were adopted to decrease the boiling time as well as the quality of syrup.
  • —What is known is that maple syrup production began officially in the 1700’s.
  • —In 1858 D.M Cook patented the first evaporator pan
  • —In 1864 David Ingalls patented a evaporator pan with baffles in the bottom to help channel the boiling sap.
  • —In 1872 H. Allen Soule or Vermont designs the first evaporator with two pans and a metal arch or firebox further decreasing boiling time.
  • —Europeans introduced metal kettles which became common place and decreased boil time.
  • —Written accounts of sugaring date back to 1557, the exact origins are unknown.

First Maple Production Innovations

maple20syrup

  • Flat bottom pans was one of the first major innovations to boiling sap.
  • Increased surface area allowed for unprecedented evaporation speeds.
  • The flat bottoms pans were also enclosed and helped keep out wood ash.
  • Both increased fuel and boiling efficiency.

Modern Evaporators Today

hTBc11m - Imgur
A modern evaporator boiling sap
  • Incorporation of deep channels or “flues” to again help decrease boiling time.
  • Enclosed heat source underneath the pans doubled the efficiency of fuel and heating times.
  • Reduced fuel and time also decreased production cost and thus decreased syrup prices.
  • Wood is still being used however, alternative fuel sources are used such as: Fuel oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas.

(Sources) : NORTH AMERICAN MAPLE SYRUP PRODUCERS MANUAL, Maple History Timeline

Advertisements

Sweet Maple in the Kitchen

We love maple syrup, and we have plenty of it, so we have been cooking up a storm in POD 8.  As we learned about the sugaring process and helped out in the sugarbush, we were also trying out different recipes, mainly relying on one cookbook:  Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (Storey Press, 2001).

Some recipes have been more successful than others.  Here is the list:

IMG_9369Day 1 – Indian Pudding.  A traditional New England dessert, this might have been a real treat for us 200 years ago.  This version is quite luscious, and it smelled particularly good while cooking.  Not everyone was a fan of the texture or of the molasses flavor, but it’s something I will make again.

Day 2 – Maple Hot Chocolate.  We were busy in the snowy woods this day, so we made a rich hot chocolate that required 2 ounces of chocolate per cup of milk.  It was too chocolatey for some, but easily thinned with more milk.  The maple part of it was not impressive – a simple teaspoon of syrup in each cup.  You couldn’t taste the maple unless you added many more spoonfuls.

Day 3 – Maple Granola.  This was a standard granola recipe that uses maple syrup instead of honey.  Very tasty.  Again, some students thought it could stand to be sweeter, and some were not crazy about the nuts and sunflower seeds.  It’s very easy to adjust sweetener and additions to taste in this kind of recipe.

IMG_9496Day 4 – North Country Basting Saucy and Hot&Spicy Kabobs.  This was a winner.  The basting BBQ sauce was tangy, and with the addition of onions, lemon juice and spice made wonderful kebabs.  One student brought in venison, and another brought in shrimp.  Five stars from everyone.

gorp barsAlso on Day 4 – Gorp Bars.  These were a disappointment.  The description indicated a bar that was “moist and chewy” and great for taking on a hike. (Think “good old raisins and peanuts” plus oats.)   Instead, it was a bit dry and crumbled easily.  I won’t be making this again, but will look for a similar granola bar recipe.

img_9508Day 5 – Maple Fudge.  Made with maple syrup, sugar, and cream, it’s trickier than you think!  Working on a sample batch the day before,  I was beating it, and just as it was almost ready, the phone rang.  By the time I asked the caller to call back in 10 minutes, the fudge had set.  It was too hard to press into the pan, but the chunks and crumbs were delicious.  When we tried it again the next day, it seems that we didn’t beat it enough, or else we didn’t get the temperature just right.  It never set properly, so we ended up with a tasty maple caramel.  My portion is waiting in my freezer, as I’m still trying to figure out how to use it.  Perhaps next time it will by “just right.”

IMG_3111Day 6 – Lasagne.  This project was leftover from the previous POD.  We had already made the sauce, so it just needed an assembling of the pasta and cheeses.  However, we added some maple syrup to the sauce so it “counted” as a maple recipe. (Many recipes add sugar to tomato sauce, so why not add maple syrup?)

Day 7 – Maple Vanilla Tapioca.  We didn’t have much time for cooking this day, but tapioca is quick and easy.  Mix 3 Tbsp of instant tapioca crystals with milk, egg and syrup (instead of sugar.)  Let stand 5 minutes.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add 1 tsp vanilla, and let stand 20 minutes.  Done!  It was well received by those who like puddings, the only critique being too much vanilla.

Day 8 – Maple-Orange Wings.  This was another disappointment – so bland and flavorless.  Looking again at the recipe afterwards, we noticed that it described the flavor as “delicate and subtle”. The wings were soaked in a marinade of orange, buttermilk, cinnamon and maple syrup.   Maybe they would have been better cooked on a grill instead of baked.  (With our old gas oven, we didn’t have the option of broiling.)  We won’t be making them again.

Also on Day 8 – Maple Baked Beans.  This was a winner that saved the day.  Earlier we had shelled the Vermont cranberry beans that had been drying in the barn all winter.  I soaked and cooked the beans, and baked them at home, bringing them in to share.  They had just the right mix of sweet and tangy, and the beans themselves had a firm, smooth texture.  Everyone loved them and filled up on beans instead of wings.

 

IMG_9576Day 9 – Maple Bacon and Buttermilk Pancakes.  We ended the POD with traditional pancakes and syrup and with bacon glazed with syrup.  Yum.  We reviewed at least four different buttermilk pancake recipes before deciding (by majority vote) on the NY Times version.  “Not as good as the Joy of Cooking recipe”, said Tom, “but still a good choice!”

My thoughts on the experience?  If I were doing it again, I would not rely on this one cookbook.  I trusted it too much, and we could have done better.  Instead, I would research the best IMG_9588recipes and reviews from a number of (mainly online) sources, keeping the best of what we have discovered.  I am already trying out more maple recipes at home.  (This week I made Maple-Pecan Sticky Buns – yum.) Also, learning from our experiments, I am now more comfortable substituting maple syrup for white sugar in a variety of recipes (1 for 1 volume, but reduce liquid).

Let the sap run on….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you wanna make syrup?

IMG_9376A small sugaring venture is a lot of time, money, and fun. If you are planning on starting a small operation of 150 taps, equipment could be around $4000, assuming you already have a sugarhouse built. This will make about 35-50 gallons of syrup. If you sell your syrup for $32 per gallon your revenue for one year would be $1300 to $1600. After operational costs you would have to work at least five years to make a profit.

Whats involved with making syrup? It takes most of your time and attention during the 6 week season.  From laying out and checking the lines to actually boiling the sap to make syrup is a lot of work, but is 110% worth it. In the end you want to sell your syrup, by finding people to buy this tasty treat.

If you still want to do sugaring after all the time and effort, this is what you will need to get you started:IMG_9488

  • Evaporator, wood or oil fire; sap goes in syrup comes out!
  • Tubing
  • Tubing washer
  • Gasoline powered tapper
  • Storage tanks
  • Filters
  • Fuel, jars and other small equipment

 

 

The First Draw

There are many steps to making maple syrup. It is a long, tasking, and grueling process. Though I have only just been introduced to how everyone’s favorite pancake topping is made I’ll try my best to summarize.

As everyone knows, maple syrup (implied in the name) is a product of maple trees, and the reason for this is because the maple tree has a naturally higher sugar content than other trees such as birch. To convert sap to syrup however, starts as early as January in the woods at the foot of a maple tree. There are various ways to harvest the sap from the tree, which include the traditional way where you hang a metal bucket to a tree with a metal “spile” also referred to as a “tap”. But, the more commonly used plastic piping has been found to be the most efficient. It connects directly to a tree with a plastic tree-safe tap. This step takes quite a bit of time; the reason for this is because the sap tends to freeze in these plastic lines on its way to the sugar house. Although there is a vacuum that helps pull the sap, it isn’t always flowing continuously. As a result of this, the bacteria has more time to eat the natural sugars which has a direct effect on the sugar content of the sap and increases the amount of time it takes to boil the sap into syrup.

In continuation, once the sap makes it through the plastic lines is deposited in a metal storage container similar to a vat. It then gets piped up and into the sugar house where all of the boiling is done. At this point the stage is set for the conversion from sap to syrup. Sap is put through a micro filter to gather all of the dirt and other materials and then pours down into another vat-like metal storage container. The then filtered sap goes into the evaporator and spends a period of time boiling down until the sap is turned into syrup.

The amount of time to convert the sap to syrup varies and has a lot of variables: how much or how little sugar content the sap has, at what temperature you’re boiling at, and how much sap you may have. After most of the water has been boiled out of the sap and the sugar content is high enough for it to turn in to syrup, you have come to a conclusion. Your last step is to strain the syrup one more time through two big filters (pictured above) to get the rest of miscellaneous materials out of the syrup.This is the first drip and now you have your tasty final product.

img_9476

It is then graded on its color. The taste is based on the coloring as well, a lighter more yellow color may have a more vanilla taste opposed to a darker more amber colored syrup that may have a darker stronger and more smokey taste. In theory, making maple syrup is not a complex operation. In fact, syrup production is mostly just physically demanding, labor intensive, time-consuming, and messy. Even though not everything is black or white there are many steps and variables to take into consideration. Making maple syrup is a long, tasking, and grueling process. However, the payoff is well worth it and has given me a new-found respect for the men and women who make us our favorite breakfast topping.

A Fun Filled Day

This day we froze our butts off walking deep in the snow learning about maple sap lines   along with pulling out taps.

The snow got in my boots and froze my ankles right off! But as we were walking I could only think I was having fun so it didn’t bother me. Pimg_9382ulling out the taps was really fun even being really short; testing my strength was the best time of it all! there is a lot of walking and a lot of little critters that you got to make sure you watch out for cause they sure can chew a hole and get some tasty sap to eat!

Maple Sugaring POD Begins

We just started a new 3-week POD on maple sugaring. Along with learning about the history and science of maple sugar, we’ll be helping with the sugaring at Smokey House.  Today was an orientation day.  After a little tour of the farm area in the snow, we talked about the origins and history of sugaring (including an Abenaki myth about how sap became so watery). We had lunch with Jesse Pyles, executive director of Smokey House, who shared some of his knowledge and experience with sugaring in West Virginia and Vermont.  And we made Indian pudding, a sweet dessert made with cornmeal, molasses, and maple syrup, that we might have eaten if we lived here in Vermont 200 years ago.  We also worked on blog posts and squeezed in a bit of sledding to get the blood flowing.  A great first day.