I recently wrote all about how to get started making maple syrup. I discussed what equipment to use, what type of trees to tap, and when to tap them. You can learn all about how to get started here. Today I’m going to discuss how to make maple syrup from the sap that was collected.
The first time I made maple syrup, I boiled down the sap that I collected and was able to fill three 4 ounce mason jars. I was so excited. It tasted amazing and I felt very accomplished.
Then, within a few days I saw the sugar beginning to crystalize on the bottom. After a week, all three jars were mostly crystalized with only a little bit of liquid maple syrup in each jar. I was so disappointed. I know how to heat sugar so that it doesn’t crystalize so I was a bit confused. I’ve learned a few tips to make sure this happens AND what to do if crystallization does happen so that nothing goes to waste.
Equipment Needed to Make Maple Syrup
I use a few thick bottomed 5 gallon stainless steel pots to cook down the sap collected. Cooking the sap down WILL make your ceiling drip with moisture if you don’t have good ventilation. If you have an outside oven or a propane cooker like this one, or some other way to process the sap outdoors then I recommend you do just that.
A candy thermometer will help you determine the sugar content of the syrup and whether you are nearing the sweet point of the perfect maple syrup. It will take the guess work out of the process and help to make sure that you don’t get that crystallization that you don’t want.
A funnel to fit your mason jars or bottles will help make the pouring process easier so that you don’t miss even a drop of the sweet syrup. If you don’t have a mason jar, use a glass measuring cup with a handle and spout to help pour carefully into the jars.
Cooking the Sap Down
Remember that you can learn all about how to collect the sap here.
These instructions are for using 5 gallon pots. Remember that 5 gallons of sap will cook down to about 2 cups of maple syrup (16 ounces) or less. That’s going from 1-3% sugar down to about 67% sugar.
As mentioned above, cooking the sap down inside your home with put a lot of moisture in the air. This isn’t bad for the first few hours, but if you are processing more than one pot, by the time you get to the 4th hour, your ceiling will be dripping with moisture. You can process the sap indoors, but you need to have a window open with a fan going so that you don’t coat your walls with moisture.
1. Fill a 5 gallon stainless steel pot with sap, leaving a few inches at the top so that it won’t boil over when it is brought to a boil.
2. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil until you cook the sap down until there is about 1/4 of it left in the pot. That’s a lot of water that you are cooking off. It will start to have a golden color now. Most people like to take it inside at this point so that it can be watched more carefully. If you’re already inside, you don’t need to transfer pots. Just keep a close eye on the syrup during its final stage.
3. Pour the syrup into another pot through a filter (coffee, cheese cloth, etc). By removing the sediment now, you will help prevent the sugar in the syrup from crystalizing when you are done.
The Final Cook
Heat to a boil again. Check with a candy thermometer often. Don’t stir! Instead, dip the thermometer in and take a reading. You want it to be 218F. This will vary slightly, depending on your elevation (Find your elevation boiling point and then add 7.1F to reach the boiling point of syrup).
If you don’t have a thermometer, dip a spoon into it. You’ll notice that it drips thickly off of the spoon instead of just running off of it like water.
If you want to be very specific, you can always purchase a refractometer. Refractometers measure the sugar amount in the syrup very precisely. You want it to read 66.5%-67.5% for perfect syrup.
Remove the syrup from heat and allow it to cool completely without stirring.
Canning and Storing Maple Syrup
Your syrup will probably have a little bit of sediment that settles on the bottom. Pour the syrup carefully into sterilized jars or bottles. Use a coffee filter or cheese cloth when pouring the last bit of the syrup to remove the sediment.
What to Do if it Crystalizes
If you notice it starting to crystalize after a few days, you can try to melt it again.
Put the jar of crystalized maple syrup in a double boiler (pot of boiling water, but not enough that the water gets into the jar). Add just a little bit of water to help it have enough moisture to melt. Go slow. You don’t want to burn the sugars.
If this still doesn’t work, you can add the crystalized sugars to a saucepan over medium heat. You will need to stir continuously. Your arm will get VERY tired. Keep stirring until all moisture is evaporated and the syrup turns into sugar! It’s wonderful and amazing! No waste either. Use the maple sugar in oatmeal, cookies and anything else that you’d like to give a natural maple flavoring.