I know it’s a little late or early (depending on how you look at it) for Syrup Season, but it’s never too early to learn how to make syrup and prepare. I love fresh syrup, and it's amazingly not too difficult to make. Not only can the sap be boiled down to make different flavored syrups, but it can also be cooked down to obtain the sugar. Just a heads up: You need a lot of sap to make a little syrup, but trust me, it really is worth what it takes.
From Sap To Syrup: A Golden Gift From The Trees
Maple trees are known to produce a sap with a sugar content of 2%. This is important, because the amount of sap you will need depends on the sugar content of the sap. It takes around 40–43 gallons of sap with a sugar content of 2% to produce one gallon of sweet and sticky maple syrup. When dealing with sap from a birch tree (which contains only 1% sugar), you'll need quite a bit more sap in order to make a nice syrup. The instructions I'll provide will be based on making syrup from the sugar maple, but I'll also include the equation required for figuring out how much sap you’ll need, no matter what tree you tap. That way, you always know how to make syrup, regardless of your environment.
How to Make Syrup
I suggest boiling your sap into syrup outdoors, because it will produce a lot of steam, and it can take a while. The supplies you'll need are very basic:
- A pot large enough for the sap you have
- Wood to fuel the fire
- 5-gallon food grade buckets w/ lids
- Candy thermometer (comes in handy)
- Food grade filter
- Glass bottle
Once you've collected the sap from the trees, you'll want to transfer the syrup from the metal catch buckets into the 5-gallon food grade buckets. It's important to keep your buckets of sap stored at 38 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, you should use it within a week from collecting it. Otherwise, you risk a chance of bacteria growing.
The sooner you process the sap into syrup, the better and safer it is. Once you’re ready to start cooking the maple sap down, boil off all of the excess water in the sap. You're going to want to fill your cooking pot about ¾ of the way with sap and set it on the fire. You’ll have to tend the fire and keep a close eye on the sap, as to avoid burning. Once the first batch of sap cooks down to about ¼ to ½ a pot, you can go ahead and top it off to the ¾ fill line. Be careful, because you'll want to try to keep a steady boil throughout the whole process.
Repeat the steps of boiling it down and adding more until all of your sap is ready for the next step. You'll know your syrup is almost ready when it turns a light golden color and is very viscous. Once you have your golden sap, you can transfer what you have into a smaller pot. From here, you can finish boiling it down on your kitchen stove. Continue boiling the sap until it becomes thicker and sticky like syrup; I like to use a wooden spoon to check how sticky it is. If I dip the spoon in and hold it above the pot, and it runs like water, it isn’t ready. However, if it sticks, you’re almost done. This is when the candy thermometer comes in handy. Use the thermometer to check the temperature and when the temp reaches 7 degrees above the boiling point, you’re good to go.
Let your syrup cool off enough to safely filter it into a glass syrup bottle without getting burned. Once your syrup is bottled and sealed, all you have to do is clean up and enjoy your reward. Syrup can last up to two months if it's sealed and refrigerated properly. I also recently learned that if you use freezer-safe containers, you can freeze some if you have too much of it.
Like, I said earlier, if you're using sap with a different sugar content, you'll need to calculate what you'll need, so you know exactly how to make syrup that fits your sweet tooth. The equation is 86 divided by the sugar content. That means if your trees are producing a sap with a 1 % sugar content, you'll divide 86, and then you’ll get your answer.
OutsideFun1 gives us a part 2 of a video on making sap into syrup:
I know it seems like a lot of work, but honestly the job requires more patience than manual labor. Plus, it’s nice to know what you need to do in order to make things to the homestead yourself. Whether you are striving to be self-sufficient or you just like to learn things, I suggest discovering the golden gifts from the trees and uncovering how to make syrup. In fact, not only can you boil down the sap into syrup, but you can also cook it down into sugars. Keep an eye out for next weeks Living Off The Grid article about sugar and sweeteners from the land!
Have you tried making sap into syrup? Let us know your kitchen secrets in the comments below!
Are you looking for more recipes for your family and friends? Check out these homemade nut milk recipes for a healthy dairy substitute!