Alright, back again for round 2 of maple syrup production at Trasher Brook Sugar Camp!
Look, I even have my own fleet of trailers.
The next step in the syruping process is by far the longest. I need to take those 40 gallons of sugar water and boil off enough H2O that the sugar to water ratio increases, thickening and darkening the liquid until we have syrup. This step really is as exciting as watching water boil, because that is all you’re doing.
This process can be done many ways, but I do it outside, under cover, on my evaporator. An evaporator is really just maple lingo for the stove that you cook the sap on. But unlike a wood stove inside your house, you don’t want this to radiate heat out. You want all the heat to go up and hit the bottom of the pan so that you get the most efficient boil possible.
I have a wood-fired evaporator made out of concrete block that we had laying around the property and some other items that I salvaged from a scrap-metal recycling dumpster. The block is a great insulator and keeps all of my heat inside. I boil on a 2’ x 3’ pan that can hold up to 15 gallons of liquid. On the back of the pan, hovering above the water line is another pot that has cold sap in it. This is my preheater. The steam coming off the big pan heats this pan up, so when I have to add sap, I’m not adding cold sap and killing my boil. When I really get going, I have to add sap every ten minutes or so to replace what has been evaporated.
Right now I can boil off about 7.5 to 8 gallons of water every hour, which is actually pretty good. I’m able to do this for a couple of reasons:
· The Grate: The wood that’s burning is sitting on a metal grate, about 6 inches off the ground. By doing this I can get oxygen underneath the fire for it to burn hotter.
· The Stack: The smoke stack for the evaporator goes up through the roof and sticks up farther than the ridgeline of the roof. This allows the wind to blow across it, increasing the draft and making the fire hotter.
· The Wood: All the wood that I burn is seasoned for at least year, insuring its dryness. I also split it much thinner than you normally would if you had a campfire. The more surface area there is to burn, the hotter the fire will be. I have to add wood to the fire more often this way, but it really increases the heat level.
This might be the longest and most tedious part of the entire process, but for some reason, its my favorite. I get to spend the entire day outside, splitting wood, drinking coffee, and watching water boil. I can try to scheme different ways to get the fire hotter, or the sap to preheat better, or find a better means of storage. Early spring brings its share of unpredictable weather, so its nice to have something as predictable as wood burning and water boiling in my life.
That’s it for today.
Next week: finishing, filtering, and consumption.