Homemade Maple Syrup

by Peter Patenaude on March 18, 2013

Before my trail companions and I could boil down the sugar maple sap, I first had to rebuild our homemade evaporator. I was able to leave the foundation untouched, but was forced to replace the upper section due to broken and split pieces. We have no need for expensive tools for such a small operation, and so a cement-block fire pit with two campfire cooking grills and old restaurant pans are all we require to properly turn sap to syrup.

Today, we took our thirty gallons of stored tree food out of the snowbank and carried the buckets to our evaporator. After building up a suitable blaze, we began to fill the pans while being careful to leave enough room to prevent a boil-over– this would be bad for the fire, and the pancakes. We let the watery syrup steam until it became thicker and had higher concentrations of sugar. While waiting for each batch to finish, my trail companions and I warmed up by enjoying glasses of the hot treat.

It took most of the day to finish off the outside work for our entire supply. Bringing the unfiltered product inside, we poured it through a cheese cloth and finished the boiling process on the more controlled gas stove top before sealing it off in jars. I have always enjoyed my time spent outside near a campfire, but I do think it is even nicer when there is sweet-smelling syrup being made over it.

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

Maine Outdoor Blog, Homemade Evaporator, Maple Syrup, Sugar, Boiling Sap, Tapping, North Woods, Campfire Cooking, Canning, Preserving, Traditional

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

John Delaney March 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Nice! Be careful those cement blocks don’t crack and spill the prize!!!

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Peter Patenaude March 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm

John- That would be awful. These blocks should last for one more season.

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Joseph Hord March 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I enjoyed getting to take a look at maple syrup being produced! I don’t think anyone makes maple syrup around here, I don’t know if it’s because we don’t have the proper variety of maples, or what. There are several people around my area that grow sugar cane for molasses, and from what I’ve seen the process is fairly similar when it comes time to boil the juice/sap.

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Peter Patenaude March 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Joseph- In order to make maple syrup the conditions have to be just right- it is just too warm in North Carolina to produce syrup.
It would be a lot of fun to make molasses- it would be interesting to see if you could profile it on your blog someday.

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Joseph Hord March 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I didn’t think about it being too warm, but that explains it! I’ll try to write a blog about molasses making sometime, I don’t make any myself but there are several farms in the area that do. I think it’s normally a late summer/early fall product.

Ron March 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

That looks wonderfully delicious and simple!
Is any kind of maple suitable? We have Acer Platanoides here, a.k.a. Norwegian maple or would that be useless?

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Peter Patenaude March 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

Ron- Acer platanoides are also grown in Maine as an ornamental tree but their sap is milky white and should not be injested. If you can find any red or silver maples (Acer rubrum / saccharinum ), they can be tapped for sugar. I do believe you can also tap white birch (Betula papyifera), however their sugar content is much lower and so must be boiled down much more for sweet syrup.

Although, I have read that some people have tapped Norway maples claiming that their sap is not milky during the winter time- I have never done this but if it is all you have maybe it would be worth a try.

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Ron March 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Than I’ll stick to enjoying posts like these and hope for some homemade honey someday.

Feather Chucker March 20, 2013 at 7:22 am

That looks like a lot of work but so worth it.

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Peter Patenaude March 20, 2013 at 10:53 am

FC- It certainly is worth it.

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walt March 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Your set-up for the boiling process reminds me of the way I used to enjoy producing syrup. A small operation with a sweet pay-off. And the smell of it while waiting around outside! Like the taste of spring’s arrival.

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Walt- It is not complicated, but the syrup is just as sweet.
It felt like spring was here, but 12 inches of snow is dropping right now.

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Liz tanguay March 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Peter I think your mother should make a pancake breakfast for us all!

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Liz- You just missed the pancake breakfast!

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Aunt Pauline March 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

You make it look like so much fun! Wish I could have been in my beach chair, just watching and tasting.

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Pauline- It is a great way to spend the day!
The sap will not run during this cold snap, but I will be sure to let you know next time I boil.

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Elizabeth March 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm

The maple syrup looks so delicious, it’s wonderful that you put so much care into it.
I’m hoping for the chance to try for myself in a week or so, perhaps on some homemade crepes, can’t wait!

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Elizabeth- Thank you.
I am very excited for your visit and we can have crepes and ployes for every breakfast!

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Claude March 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm

That most certainly looks like the proper way to make maple syrup, well done.
I can imagine the smell of wood smoke mixed with steaming maple sap must have been wonderful, a worthy bonus for your hard work.

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Claude- Absolutely a wonderful smell.

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therese young March 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Nice way to spend your time this time of year, I know quite a few people who are collecting sap and cooking it down, such a satifying process and to be rewarded with such a delicious final product!!!! Yum-Yum !!!

Therese

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Therese- You are right, it certainly is a satisfying process with a great reward!

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Louise March 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

Such a fun and delicious way to spend the day. Great pictures too.

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Louise- It sure is.
Thank you!

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Liz Tanguay March 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

OMG! I can taste and smell the syrup all the way in Gorham!

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Beth March 19, 2013 at 10:38 am

Mmmm get on my pancakes and in my belly!

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OutdoorEnvy March 19, 2013 at 9:23 am

Gosh that looks good. I’ve never made syrup like that before. I had a great aunt and uncle who would make it like this and I remember looking forward to it as it was the best syrup I’ve ever had. That’s one of those great treasures as the process to gather and make it is fun to share, then getting to enjoy it together all year is the icing on the cake, or syrup on the pancake I should say.

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

OutdoorEnvy- It is delicious. For some reason, things seem to taste better when they are homemade and when time has been invested into the making of it. You are right, it is a treasure during every step of the process- time spent with friends and family, and enjoying the work the rest of the year.

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Quill Gordon March 19, 2013 at 7:36 am

Nicely done. Looks like you had a decent day for boiling outside. Guard those jars!

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Peter Patenaude March 19, 2013 at 10:04 am

Quill- It was a great day to be out as the fire was very warming.
They are worth their weight in gold!

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Ed Loessi March 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm

So how many quarts did the 30 gallons boil down to?

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Peter Patenaude March 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Ed- Sugar Maple sap is a 40 gallon to 1 gallon ratio, so it boiled down to around 3 quarts.

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Mike March 18, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Pass the flap jacks please!!!!

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Peter Patenaude March 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Mike- Certainly!

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Peter Patenaude March 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Ron- Homemade honey! I would like to try making that someday as well.

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Peter Patenaude March 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Joseph- I would love to see that- I had no idea it was made in NC!
It is really interesting to see and hear about the variety of things that are made throughout the states.

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