Maple Syrup…in the Kitchen
I’ve got some big sugar maples in my yard, just standing there doing nothing. This past February I decided to tap a few and cook down some syrup. I’d never done this before and have no means of boiling sap outside. Everyone said it was a really bad idea to try it indoors on a kitchen stove. They were wrong.
I can understand the concern. A large kettle boiling away for several hours throws a lot steam, all of which goes straight up to the ceiling. All that steam will condense leaving a nice wet spot on the ceiling. Obviously, this is bad. I had a dehumidifier on standby in case things got really damp. I never needed it. A humble box fan is all it takes to disperse steam and keep your ceiling and walls intact. I set it up about eight feet from the kettle, pointed it slightly up and let it run.
|Milk jugs make great sap buckets|
Collecting sap doesn’t require fancy equipment. Spiles were the only item that had to be purchased (thanks to my wife for those- they were a nice birthday gift). Gallon milk jugs with a small hole cut in the top make perfect sap buckets. They’re easy to pour and the modest opening really helps cut down on debris getting in. The only detail of concern with milk jugs is translucency. From what I understand, sunlight can spoil sap. Most jugs are translucent, so if reusing milk jugs, try to get ones that are opaque.
The nice thing about cooking sap inside is that it’s very hands-off. Fill kettles, turn on the heat, let the water evaporate. I never had a boil-over (something I am familiar with from years of home brewing!) or other problems. When I got sick of boiling in the evening, I shut the burners off and started again the next day. It’s remarkable how much water evaporates over night from residual heat.
|Not bad for only 4 spiles and just a kitchen stove!|
By late syrup season I had had enough. I got about eight quarts of syrup plus six gallons of sap that I used for beer brewing and about four and half gallons stored in a freezer. I could have collected more but doing it inside does tie up the stove top for quite a while and I was getting sick of constantly emptying jugs and storing sap in a refrigerator. It was a great project and I hope to expand the operation next year. With the going rate for syrup around $20 per quart, it certainly pays for itself in a hurry!