Maple Sugaring - Evaporating
If you remember those old Dunkin' Donuts commercials where the very tired donut maker wearily keeps repeating to himself...."Gotta make the donuts" then you have a bit of an idea what this phase of maple sugaring is all about - except the ongoing phrase in your head is more like "Gotta feed the fire".
Once you have your sap then you've got to bring it to a boil..and then you let boil..and boil...and boil some more. You have to keep the fire going hot if you want to make progress and when you still have 50 gallons of sap waiting plus another gather looming in the afternoon - you want to make progress.
We started with large pots last year but we knew we were going to have improve on that for this year. At the beginning of the season we started with two stainless steel steam tables - like the ones you might see at a hot buffet.
This worked so much better than the pots...but we could do better. Ed was able to find a piece of stainless steel metal and a coworker was able to fashion a larger pan for us - he will be getting free syrup and other maple goodies for life! The best part about having a custom made pan is that we know it is absolutly lead free. Isn't it beautiful?
But believe me - this same pan looks a little different now at the end of the season. The larger shallower pan means more sap fits in the pan and more of pan being in contact with the flames makes for a more efficient boil. The picture below shows one of the smaller pans now acting as a warmer for the sap.
The basic routine Hannah followed was to strain the sap through cheesecloth and add that to the warming pan on top. Whenever the big pan started getting low - the sap from the warming pan was added to the large pan. We kept the large pan going until it was getting close to syrup - the sap obviously starts to slightly thicken and gets a more golden color, oh...and it smells wonderful! Once the syrup was getting close to finish, that is, when the temperature got to about 216 F degrees,the syrup would be moved to a large pot to finish inside on the stove.
Inside the syrup was finished at 219 degrees F. Once we had syrup we would let the "sugar sand" settle - next step - bottling!