Finishing the Maple Season and (Thankfully) Freezing Our Syrup

Good morning!  I am excited and sad to share today.  I’m excited, because I am sharing the final results of tapping our 2 maple trees this year and how I’m still learning about maple syrup-ing.  But I’m sad, because it’s the end of the season for making maple syrup.

With the recent cold snap, the weather is perfect for sap flow.  Low temperatures in the 20’s at night and mid 40’s in the day are perfect, but the trees are budding.  I love spring, but I hate to see the maple trees bud.  When the leaves bud and start to open, the sap gets an off flavor, so syrup season is done.

Nice wood pile, but not ready to use yet

This was a great year for our sap.  In 2016, our first year, we had 44 ½ gallons of sap.  In 2017, we collected 70 ½ gallons before the trees budded.  This year, though, was amazing!

We boiled 94 ½ gallons of sap!  And the husband had to dump out 10 more gallons!

The trees were just barely budding when he pulled the taps from the maple trees and dumped our last 10 gallons of sap out.  I was soooo sad.  I think we could have collected sap for a few more days before it developed an off flavor, but we couldn’t boil anymore sap.

Last year- soup over the fire!

I had burned all our seasoned firewood making maple syrup.  All of it-even the firewood intended for camping season!

We made an amazing amount of syrup, 11 quarts!- but I burned all of our camping firewood!

The logs we split this winter are green.  So, even though it is a nice sized woodpile, the logs need to dry.  We won’t be able to use them until this fall (I hope) or next year (probably more realistic).

Hopefully, we can find older wood to split for this year’s camping, because the fire is one of my favorite parts about camping!  Cooking and experimenting over the campfire is sooo fun!  Actually, I even love just watching and tending the fire.

There were many chances to watch and tend the fire this maple syrup season, we boiled 6 times!

Room for snacks over the maple syrup fire

Most of those times, I enjoyed being outside, tending to the fire and boiling sap.  Since we use concrete blocks and round stock pots, there is room for me to cook over the fire.  I’ve cooked coffee, soup and sausages while boiling the maple sap.  It is sooo fun!  Just like camping, but earlier in the season!

Next year, I am worried that there might not be extra room for me to cook outside.  The husband wants to use rectangle steamer pans and a barrel cooker.  This should conserve our firewood and reduce the smoky taste of the syrup, which not everyone loves as much as I do.

Not frozen, but very, very thick

I will have to buy new steamer pans though, and not add them to my garage sale ‘to buy list’.  This will cost more, but there are so many reviews about how great the pans are for litter boxes, that I don’t want to buy used ones.

I am glad I can save money and use my old mason jars to freeze our maple syrup, though.  Since we only tap 2 trees, I store our syrup in the freezer.  Maple syrup needs to be the right temperature to bottle in sterilized jars.  I don’t use a hydrometer, just a candy thermometer, and I would worry about shelf life and correct processing.  So, it is much easier for me to store the syrup in the freezer.

I leave ½ inch head space, just under the rings, in the jars and have not had a problem with expansion or jars breaking.  Maple syrup doesn’t freeze- it just becomes really, really thick in the freezer.

This year, some of the jars are cloudy and almost frozen-but still ok to use

This year though, I was surprised to see some of my different batches of syrup after they were in the freezer.  I have tried very hard to not go past the syrup point (around 219 degrees where we live) and not get crystals of sugar in the syrup.

Evidently, on some of the batches, I tried too hard and didn’t make it to the syrup point!  2 batches are partially frozen.  It’s almost like slush.  I can still put a spoon in the jar, but it’s cloudy and a different consistency than the other jars of syrup.

This is the first year any of the jars have looked partially frozen, of course the other years they had sugar crystals in the bottom of the jars. Sugar crystals are a definite sign that I am boiling it to much;  I enjoy watching the syrup drip off the spoon, but then go right past the syrup point!

At least it didn’t expand or break the jars.  I also know they taste good, because we ate some with pancakes before it made it into the freezer.  I must have stopped cooking right under the syrup point.  I could reprocess the jars, but I will just use them first instead.

I am very glad they are in the freezer and not being stored on the shelf.  I have them frozen in pint and quart jars, and as we finish a jar, I just put a new one into the refrigerator.  No storage or shelf life worries at all.

It is so fun, making our maple syrup.  I love how easy it is to make and store.  Even though I am sad that this maple season is over, I’m looking forward to what I will learn during next year’s season.

Happy Camping (or waiting for camping during this cold snap!)

Frugal Campasaurus

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