Sugaring 2013 – Test Boil, Part 4
Well, after boiling for 6 hours on the evaporator, I reduced approximately 32-35 gallons of crystal clear sap with a sugar content of about 1.5% to approximately 5 gallons of sweet sap concentrate. I have no idea what the concentrate has for a sugar content, but I am going to guess its upwards of 10%. Although not visually appealing, it has enough sugar to keep it from freezing when I left it covered outside with temps in the teens. It also tastes much sweeter than the clear sap that comes out of the trees. There are some ice crystals starting to form on the top of the “Sweet”, but it is all liquid.
The night I boiled this down was also the night the weather turned cold, with temperatures for at least a week staying below freezing. With no more sap to add to the evaporator I needed to take the 5 gallons of sweet out of my syrup pan and bring it inside to finish it. This would be our first batch of syrup for the 2013 season. There is no magic here, just lots of boiling and lots of steam. Luckily for us, our house was pretty dry and could use all the added moisture we dumped into it after taking 5 gallons of sweet down to syrup. In the future with sap consistently running we should be able to draw off almost syrup right from the evaporator, resulting in less time boiling/finishing inside the house.
So, everything about syrup making is time consuming. I had a bout 5 hours on our cook-top watching the above pot boil. That is until I dumped the last of the “Sweet” concentrate into the pan and it reduces enough to give you “tiny bubbles” seen below…
These tinier bubbles let you know you are getting close to syrup. From here on out I am basically manning the stove waiting for the temperatures to reach syrup level. The liquid in the pans is reading about 215F at this point and needs to hit 219F +/- before I start checking the sugar content to make sure I have the right sugar concentration.
As the temperatures start to rise, I have to reduce the heat of the burner to prevent this, hot sticky mess from boiling over and ruining the pot, the stove, and my wife’s idea that sugaring is way cool and that her husband is not crazy…
When the liquid hits 220F on my thermometer I pour the first scoop into my test cup so I can check the density of the syrup with my hydrometer. I am looking for the hydrometer to read over the hot test line in red at 59 on the Brix Scale. I had to do this twice before I got a reading over 59. It’s important to make sure you have at least one hydrometer, so you can check to make sure your syrup is of the proper density. You cannot judge syrup by the temperature reading on your thermometer alone. My thermometer’s were reading 220F when I started checking and technically you are suppose to technically have syrup at 219F +/- when adjusted for elevation. So buy a hydrometer your first year, and hope someone gives you a second one the following year. It’s always good to have two so you can check one versus the other if you get any wild readings.
Once the syrup was of proper density I filtered and bottled the syrup into glass, we ended up with a little more than (9) 8 ounce bottles of a tasty Grade A, Medium Amber Syrup. Not bad for our first run of the 2013 season. Especially when you remember last year it took us forever to make over a 1/2 gallon of syrup and we thought we were superstars making it a pint at a time!