Little Creek Maple Farm

Our adventures around the homestead.

Sugaring 2014 – Re-Filtering Last Year’s Syrup

Little Creek Maple Farm Syrup

Prior to running this years syrup (2014) I figured I would run what I had left over of last years (2013) syrup though Daryl Sheets Filter Press.  I probably had a little more than a gallon of syrup that I had real issues filtering last year.  Some of the frustration I now know was finishing the syrup to heavy, which made it harder to run through the gravity filters and I am sure I may have pushed some of the sugar sand through.  This made for an unsightly layer of sugar sand in the bottom of my 8 oz. and 12 oz. glass bottles.  So these bottles sat for a year and we would use them as we needed more syrup.  This unsightly product prompted me to get a filter press.  Probably overkill for our small scale operation but if I am going to do something I want to do it right.

The first steps involved in setting up the press can be found in my previous post about The Dry Run with Daryl’s Press.  So, after opening all the old small bottles of syrup and dumping them with all the settled sugar sand into a double boiler, I began re-heating the syrup up to 185F so I could run the syrup though the maple syrup filter press made by Daryl Sheets.  I used three cake plates as you can see below and cycled the heated syrup with diatomaceous earth (DE) through the press and filled up some glass quarts.

Below I removed the end waffle plate from the filter bank.  The filter papers stayed on after removing the waffle on the end and I was surprised to see what looked like some brown syrup or sediment trapped in the bottom left corner of the cake plate.  To describe the process of what happens simply.  Hot syrup with DE is allowed to flow freely into the cake plate via the hole on the bottom right.  The DE collects on the surface of the filter paper inside the cake plate and the syrup pushes through the DE and filter paper to the waffle plate where filtered syrup leaves the waffle plate via the holes that you can see in the bottom left of the waffle plate in the left image.  The filtered syrup than travels out of the bank via the hole on the bottom left of the filter bank.

Back plate removedMaple Syrup Filter Press

Removal of the last cake plate from the press, it came off easily with filter papers on both side of the cake plate stuck on as you see below.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in OperationDaryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

After setting the cake plate on a real dinner plate, it was time to reveal what was behind the filter paper.  There was a layer about 1/8” thick of DE on the inside of the cake plate, with the brown sediment concentrated down at the outlet of where the syrup would pass from the cake plate to the waffle plate to leave the press.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in OperationDaryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

More of the same as I removed each plate.  Each side of the filter paper had a nice cake of DE that was about 1/8” in thickness.

Daryl Sheet's Filter Press in Operation

The final result was 5+ quarts of crystal clear syrup.  I had to keep checking this batch up to the light for at least a week because I could hardly believe the clarity.  I know a lot of people have success with gravity filtering, and the press is not cheap, but in my mind Daryl’s filter press is worth every penny, based on the results that I observed.

Homemade Maple Syrup


May 4, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sugaring 2014 – Filter Press, Dry Run

So we hooked up the new filter press form Daryl Sheets two weekends ago.  Prior to running syrup though I did this one set up where we ran hot water with filters & diatomaceous earth (DE) though the press to make sure everything was clean and rinsed out real well.  This was the trial run for us to see how everything would work with water.  As you can see below in the series of photos the press consists of a bunch of machined waffle plates, cake plates, and the filter paper.  Because we were only doing a gallon and a half of syrup I arbitrarily decided on using 3 cake plates. Below is the first waffle plate, which is fixed in position at the beginning of the filter press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

After the first plate I place on of the filter papers in front of the waffle being sure to line up the inlet & outlet holes of the filter paper with those on the waffle plate.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

Next, I place one of the cake plates on the other side of the filter paper.  The cake plates are going catch all of the DE and the impurities in the syrup when you are using the press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

Once I had a cake plates and waffle plates that I was going to use in place along with the end plate, I found that it would have been impossible to wind the wing nuts onto the threaded rod on the side closest to the hand pump, so I took the remaining unused plates and stacked them up behind the end plate.  These plates filled the gap and allowed me to tighten the wing nuts as if I had been using all of the plates on the press.

Daryl Sheets Filter Press

I used some 1/2” plastic 90-degree fittings (these will be upgraded next year to quick-connects) and some RV-style water hose that I picked up at the local big box store.  The hose did get soft running boiling liquid through it but did not collapse too bad so we were able to use it for filtering syrup.  Because we are trying to figure this process out I went with two 8’ lengths of hose, which was a paint for the long length but a blessing because we could spread out.  We put a little more than a gallon of water on the stove and brought it to a boil. Then we circulated the boiling hot water with nothing in it through the press, just to see how this thing would work.  The spring clamps from Harbor Freight are a must have for any sugaring operation…

Hooking up the Hoses

After circulating the hot water through, the boss added the DE to the hot water.  We had to keep stirring the DE in hot water to keep it suspended in solution.

Adding DE to the Water

If you look closely in the photo below you can see the bottom hose is milky-white as it sucks up the DE and water solution, and if you look at the top hose you can see that it is clear with crystal clear liquid coming out of the hose.  So, basically the filter papers in the press are catching all of the DE.

Pre-heating the Filter Press

After locking up the hand pump (we used to much DE) and not being able to pump any more water through we decided to stop and see what the press looks like on the inside.  Below you can see how we removed the last end cap waffle plate and you can see the white DE behind the filter paper.  There was also a little bit of drippage in the drain pan.

Removing the end plate

I remove each cake plate and both filter paper were sticking well to each side.

Filter Press Cake Plate with DE

Peeling back the filter paper revealed the cake plate filled with DE.

Filter Press Cake Plate with DE

After this dry run with hot water, we rinsed and cleaned everything, so now it was time to see how well this process would work with some of last years syrup that we had a heck of a time filtering with gravity methods.  Stay tuned for the results.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tree Down!

Well we awoke Saturday morning to a surprisingly sunny, and mild day.  The weather forecast was for the entire weekend to be a washout, so the lack of rain was a huge bonus.  We gathered the kids and some buckets and went down to check the sap flow.  Just before we were to check the first buckets I saw that the tree in the center of the picture below has fallen on one of our lines.  The tree was obviously one of the many standing dead trees that I have yet to take down.  We had some high winds on Friday that probably contributed to it’s demise.

Falled Tree On Maple Line

Lucky for me, I had the chainsaw in the garage ready to go, and the tree was nice enough to fall in right over a ditch that made cutting a breeze.

Husqvarna MapleYellow or Black Birch

After I finished cutting all my helpers were lined up to shuttle firewood up to the house.

Cutting up Fallen TreeFirewood Chain

Once the wood was brought up and split we collected the buckets for an afternoon boil before the rain!

Maple Sap in 5 Gallon Buckets

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugaring 2014 – Maple Sap Filtering Set-up

Our latest sugaring device.  This little set-up has made filtering large quantities of maple sap a breeze.  I cut the bottom off of a 5 gallon bucket.  I took 4 small spring clamps that I had laying around from last year and used them to clamp filter material on the top of the bucket.

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Use then set the cut bucket inside the regular bucket and pour your sap through the filter into the clean sap bucket below.  This worked awesome!

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Our end result was clean clear sap from with no debris from the woods.  Cheap and effective.

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March 15, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , | 2 Comments

Sugaring 2014 – The Polar Vortex

Frozen Sap

Well the photo above kind of sums up this past week of sugaring!  Nothing has ran since last Sunday February 23rd, 2014.  We have been in the freezing tundra of New Hampshire or caught in some kind of polar vortex.  Despite the last couple years of unpredictable warm-ups, it is looking like this year will be more of a typical winter and sugaring season.  So, I sit here wondering yet again for the 3rd season in a row if we may have tapped our trees to early?  Only time will tell, but the reality is tapping last weekend made so much sense, given the warm weather and timing.  It’s always easier to put the taps in on the weekend then during the week. We will just have to wait and see, but the freeze up provided for some pretty good photos as we walked the sugar bush this afternoon.


The 10 day, puts any worthwhile sugaring another week away with the first glimpse of sugaring weather occurring on Friday March 7th!  It will probably take at least a couple days to thaw us out too!

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The sap is frozen like water in the lines and in the buckets.  I would estimate 15 or so gallons frozen in the buckets with more in the tubing.

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All of the tees are iced up solid from each drop line…

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To each end line ring where the tubing terminates into a 5 gallon bucket.

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And a drip frozen in time, just before it hits the pool of frozen sap in the bottom of the bucket.  Truly wild!

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sugaring 2014 – First Taps of the Season

Maple Bucket Brigade

Well we got started on our maple sugaring season yesterday, with 40+ degree weather yesterday, it was time to get the taps in.  Thankfully I had lots of  energetic help.  The boys rounded up the buckets and helped blaze trails through the snowpack!

Maple Sugaring Tools

On our way to tap the first tree with the kids, notice that I no longer need to carry any tools, just an iced coffee for me this year.

Shoveling out snow to get to the maple tap

Our first tree required a little shoveling of the driveway snow banks before we could reach it, but the warm weather made for easy shoveling.

Kids Maple Tree Tap

As you can see the snow got a little deep once you stepped off the well packed down trail to the tree.  Lucky for me, I was just the supervisor and all my assistants had the tools we needed to tap this maple tree.

Maple Tap

My oldest got to drill his first tap into this maple tree.  It’s a little challenging when you have two people driving, but we managed to get it done.

Hammering in a Seasonal Maple Tap

Not to be outdone, it was no time for the younger son, to hammer in the plastic tap.  Watch the fingers!

Maple Tap on Tubing

After attaching the tubing to the tap, this red maple is now on the lateral line and dripping sap.  Only 40 plus taps left to go…

Sugaring season wouldn’t be complete with out my oldest looking to taste the sap as it flows out of the trees.  He is always amazed by how it runs out of the trees and how it tastes.  This boy loves the sweet taste of the maple sap, but not pure maple syrup, go figure.

Tasting Maple Sap

This year we had so much snow it was fun watching the kids try and navigate the deep snowpack.  I found myself just watching them trying to walk around and it was hard not to giggle a bit when they got stuck.  It was a good day yesterday, and hopefully today we can dig out the evaporator and finish up the last couple taps that will be on buckets this year.

Maple Bucket Lids

This year with the deep snow, I found it helpful to have one of these bins to haul around in the woods that contained everything we needed to tap our trees.

Maple Tool Tote

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sugaring 2013 – Our Last Outside Boil

Roasting Marshmallows

I finally got some time to boil.  It’s a good thing too!  We had maybe close to 40 gallons of sap that needed boiling right away.  I had done my best to keep the 5-gallon pails buried in the snow bank, but after a string of warm spring days with temperatures well into the 50’s, my stockpile of snow was shrinking.  Heck, I was starting to see some shoots pop on one of my raised beds!

I had a few errands to run in the morning, so I got started boiling late morning around 11:00AM and loaded the last pieces of wood closer to 6:00PM.  This latest stretch of warm weather had left the buckets dry all week, and all the snow in the woods had disappeared.  The majority of this sap was collected towards the beginning of the week and because it’s so late in the season I am hoping for some Grade B syrup.  The really dark maple-ly stuff that can be used for cooking or beer.

Last Boil 2013-03-30 007

It was a little windy Saturday so this was my best steam cloud picture.  I had to time it just right when the wind had stalled.

Towards the end of the boil the wife and kids decided they wanted to have some roasted marshmallows!  I figured what the heck, and told them we could roast them if they could find the camping forks.  The kids had roasted marshmallows and hot dogs for dinner.  At the end of the night I ended up with a little more than 4 gallons of concentrated sap, which provided I have time on Easter, I will boil down to almost syrup, and eventually bottle sometime during the week.  I am only expecting 1/2 gallon of syrup, so we will have to wait and see how it turns out…

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugaring 2013 – Maple Saturday Afternoon!

Late Saturday afternoon, much to my surprise, the sap was running.  It was warm out, maybe upper 30’s, but it was cool with a stiff breeze, and I wasn’t expecting much.  However, when we went to hit the dump, we were shocked to see the buckets overflowing!

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We had to rush to the dump before they closed and hurry home to empty the buckets before we lost anymore sap on the ground.  We were truly shocked!

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Things were thawing and the “Little Creek” was running.  The boys had a blast splashing in the water, thank goodness for boots and snow pants!

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It took us a good while to empty all of the buckets and bucket brigade them to the driveway where we took a quick break and paused for another photo shoot after all this was probably going to be our best run of the season.

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After getting the buckets up to the top of the driveway reality set in and I was reminded about the other 16 gallons of sap we collected the previous night!  Not to mention we still had 4 more trees to collect sap from behind the house…

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As the sun was setting reality was about to set in – 50 gallons of sap!  Looks like we are boiling all day Sunday.

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , | Leave a comment

Sugaring 2013 – Little Creek Gear


Grammy in Florida has been busy this sugaring season! The boys got their own official sugaring gear this week complete with fancy maple leaves.

I am partial to the blaze orange shirt myself and Wen likes the blue shirt the best, but both will look equally awesome on the kids. Very professional and many thanks to Grammy in Florida for all of her hard work!

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Sugaring | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugaring 2013 – Green Waffles


Well I had a slight technical difficulty with our last batch of syrup. As you can see in the photo above I have about a 1/4″ of sugar sand that settle out in last weeks batch of syrup.

This has caused be a fair amount of stress trying to figure out the cause of the build up. We have filtered the same way we always had since we started last season and I had checked the syrup density prior to bottling so I was stumped. We noticed within an hour or so of bottling these jars that there was a hint of cloudiness. Additionally the syrup was not filtering as easily as prior batches. What was odd was the lack of filtering was not due to clogged filters with niter or sugar sand, but what appeared to be syrup. This was odd because I had the syrup fairly hot to filter.

I should have known to stop and recheck the density of the syrup but it was late and I wanted the satisfaction of bottling the 1/2 gallon we just made. I had a slight foam up after I checked I the density the first time which appears to have been the culprit. Basically the syrup I checked with a density of 61 Brix became more dense when left on the heat and foamed up.

I finally got to confirm my suspicions this morning over some Green Waffles! My darling wife decided to surprise the kids and I with some awesome waffles. I figured what better to confirm the density of last weeks syrup than to crack open a bottle and check the cold density.


I got out my trusty stainless steel hydrometer cup and hydrometer and checked the cold density at approximately 68F. Now the syrup should be testing out at 65.6 Brix in order to be syrup. Any less than this value and its not legally syrup, any more and I am way too dense and I can expect cloudy syrup and settlement of the suspended minerals over time, both of which I was already experiencing.


I could tell as I was pouring the syrup from the small 8 ounce bottle that the syrup was indeed much thicker than any of my previous bottles. I put the hydrometer in the syrup and my suspicions were confirmed at almost 71 Brix in density. The syrup was way to dense! Other than the in appealing sediment at the bottom of the jar the jar the syrup was awesome and definitely thicker than we were accustomed to.


For my oldest to actually taste it and then pour more onto his waffle, we had confirmation that the syrup was good! So I am on the fence…do I keep these bottles as is and reserve for personal use or do I un cap, add some more less dense concentrate and re-bottle…


Only time will tell.

    March 17, 2013 Posted by | Cooking, Sugaring | , , , , | Leave a comment

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