Hello, my friends!
Some of you who have been around for a while may remember last year’s series I did on our maple sugaring – But for those of you who are new, here’s a quick explanation. For the past 8 years, my family has tapped maple trees and made maple syrup. In this post, I’ll cover everything from tapping our trees to jars of finished maple syrup. And at the end, I’ll be doing a giveaway with a half-pine of this year’s syrup, maple fudge, and the book, Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. Sounds fun, right?
Enjoy lots of woodsy photos, crazy siblings, and our maple syrup adventures!
To be honest, I didn’t do much this year, or at least as much as I usually do. I’ve carried a few buckets, opened the spigot, helped with the much-needed decorating for the sugar shack, and stayed up late to provide moral support while Mom & Dad finished one evening, but I’ve mostly taken pictures and worked on inside chores. So, this year’s syrup is mostly going to be the labor of my parents, brothers, and little sister. But, I do have pictures of most things!
Let’s start with lots and lots of white buckets that Malachi cleaned one Saturday morning. We use to hang bags to the tree, but we’ve switched to buckets so they won’t burst. They’re definitely not the prettiest to look at, but at least they’re clean. 😛
Once you have plenty of clean buckets, it’s time to tap your tree. Basically, you drill a hole into a maple tree, add a spile, (the faucet that the sap will drip out of!), hang your bucket, and you have a tree with a bucket on it. Very rewarding, I know. XD
Another tree with a just as lovely white bucket! Time for a quick lesson! Sap flows when the temp is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. Sap flows up in the springtime to help generate energy, while the new leaves are forming.
We tapped 78 trees by the end of the season, I believe! Not all of them were on our property (e.g. we tapped both of my grandparents’ trees they have in their yards. Don’t worry, we didn’t walk into someone else’s yard and start drilling holes in their trees.)
When your trees have been tapped then you wait a few days for your buckets to fill, it’s time to go and collect! We used to carry ALL of our buckets down from the woods (a lot of which were on a very steep hill) but then we got the Ranger two years ago and the four-wheeler last spring which makes collecting a lot easier. (Does anyone love the chaos that’s going on in the corner of this picture? You can thank two crazy dogs and one little brother. 😜)
Dad and Malachi attached a 65-gallon tank to the four-wheeler and Malachi rode around collecting with that. Quite the change from past years! 😀
This is our maple sugar shack that’s really just the overhang from our garage. It’s usually neater over here so you don’t have to walk through a maze to get to the boiler (which is technically called an evaporator, but we always just call it the boiler), but this picture is in its messier state. Mom and I also hung string lights around one day, and they were so pretty at night when we out to check sap/finish!
Once you start the fire in the boiler, you pour the collected sap in. It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, so by the end of the season for you to have a good amount of syrup, you have to collect a LOT of sap.
Oh! This was something that I actually did help with this year. xD I did the treacherous job of driving the ranger down to one of our many wood piles and filling it, and then bringing it back and letting the boys stack it. I love how it looks like the wood is glowing in this picture!
Once the sap has been boiling for more than a few hours (how long it takes depends on how much sap is in the boiler – it usually takes 3 – 4 days (with breaks) of boiling and adding for us to get 6 gallons of syrup.) and is starting to look like syrup, you check it using the hydrometer. The hydrometer measures the density of the syrup, and it has to reach 59 brix (or be close) for it to be the right density.
You keep checking it – about every 3 to 5 minutes – until it reaches 58 since it’ll get to 59 while we pull it off. And then. . . .
You pull the syrup off the boiler! Our boiler is bowed slightly in the bottom of it, which is why someone has to use a spatula or scraper to get it all out.
Technically, it’s best to open the spigot first so the syrup has a way to get out of the boiler. XD We just put it in a 5-gallon bucket (or two) and then we’ll put it into jars once it’s filtered.
Then the sap that’s now syrup starts to pour out! Seeing the golden and caramel-colored syrup is quite satisfying. 😀 We’ve accidentally managed to melt three buckets because they were too close to the boiler. o.O
Once we get as much syrup as we can scrape from the boiler and into the bucket, someone starts pouring in new sap so the bottom of boiler doesn’t burn. The screen is on there is to make sure that there aren’t any big things (e.g. bugs, leaves, etc) getting into the boiler.
I glanced out my window one foggy morning and noticed how neat the wood smoke from the boiler looked. This isn’t exactly a syrup photo, but also, it is, so I’m putting it here, haha.
By the end of the season, we ended up with 26 gallons of syrup. o.O Which is 1040 gallons of sap, all of which was all collected by my brothers or dad, so we get to thank them for the syrup this year.
Let’s start talking about the giveaway!
- The giveaway is only open to U.S. residents – I’m so sorry, guys! Shipping in the U.S. is already expensive enough as it is.
- If you’re under 18, please get a parent’s permission before entering since I’ll need your address if you win to send you your prize.
- The Giveaway starts today, the 7th, and ends at midnight on the 13th. I will announce the winner on the 14th, and I will email them. If the winner doesn’t respond by April 20th, I will have to pick a different winner.
- Once you enter, there are plenty of ways to earn bonus entries — There is a list on the giveaway page when you enter!
What the winner will win:
- a pint jar of this year’s syrup
- the middle-grade book, Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen (I love this book! It’s so sweet and is all about making maple syrup!)
- homemade maple fudge
If you have any questions, comment them below and I’ll get back to you! Now, let the entering begin!
Have you tapped trees before? What’s your favorite thing to add syrup to? Are YOU entering the giveaway?? Let’s chat in the comments!