“Every part of the buffalo”

Back in February of 2021, Brooke’s Dad had the idea of tapping a few of his silver maple trees to see if he could get enough sap to make syrup. Always her father’s daughter, Brooke decided to spend the ~$20 on a tapping kit from Amazon to see what we can get out of our sugar maple trees in the yard. Because those were practically the only thing on our property not being harvested for something (hence the title of this post).

We left the trees tapped for a few weeks, but in order to get a solid haul of sap, the temperatures need to be below freezing at night, and warm up a bit during the day. Last year, we had a solid stretch of days like that, but we weren’t prepared for the volume we would end up with. We ended up collecting enough to fill every vessel in the house (a lot of bottles used for brewing, various plastic containers, etc.) and take up a substantial amount of refrigerator space.

We used my turkey fryer that’s usually reserved for making beer (and now making syrup). We went through a few propane tanks in boiling off water and concentrating syrup down to its final viscosity. Brooke had to be careful with this, as boiling over is an issue (and it turns out sap is sticky), and over-concentrating the syrup could lead to crystallization.

In the end, we got 12 half-pint jars canned. It tasted good! More “runny” than I’m used to, but the flavor was shockingly good!

So this year, Brooke set up the rig again, but the temperatures were all over the place. January was warm at various points, we had multiple weeks with at least 2 snow days, so the “below freezing at night” and “sunny and warmer during the day” was few and far between. Brooke even disconnected the piping once to try and prevent mold from growing.

This time, Brooke planned ahead and saved gallon milk jugs. They were easier to store in the fridge(s), and we didn’t have to burn through almost all the glassware we have in the house. She also started the boiling process sooner this time, rather than waiting for the collection process to be done. Brooke figured that she could keep concentrating it over time while still collecting, and for the most part, that worked. But, we ended up collecting way more than last year. She estimates she collected 40(ish) gallons of sap this time around, so accordingly, we also ended up burning through three propane tanks (when oil prices are through the roof….yeah….we made expensive syrup…).

After Brooke reduced the volume down to one pot’s worth, she brought it inside to our gas range where she had a bit more temperature control. From there, she kept reducing the volume as much as she needed to, and kept it at the right temperature (219 F) to can it. This year, we ended up with 9 pints of syrup.

Now, is all of this processing worth it?! Well, our syrup cost $0.43/oz, which feels a bit pricey, but then again, we don’t always keep true maple syrup around. It’s an activity in the winter months, though, when we can’t grow anything outside and don’t usually have other projects going on (2021 notwithstanding…). When the weather is nice, it’s kinda charming hanging out in the garage having a beer while the sap evaporates!