Making Maple Syrup
I finished up this past weekend and pulled my taps. On Sunday the sap that did run was getting cloudy, but still good enough to boil. Made 2 gallons of finished syrup this weekend. Ended the year with around 5 gallons which was my goal.
My February batch was a little dark, but my first batch of the main run was very dark. Actually darker than the last batch I just made. I had frost in the ground at that time, I know I could not dig a hole deeper than 2" and there was quite a bit of snow around (northern WI). All of that sap froze solid and stayed that way for probably 2 weeks. When thawed it was perfectly clear too. I don't think bacteria would have done anything to it. That seems to go against what I have read. Not exactly sure but it tastes fine. My next batch was lighter colored.
Good thing I'm building a new cooker next year, my current one is toast. I put some firebrick in to protect the steel barrel but the supporting legs buckled in from the heat. At least it didn't dump my syrup.
I lost the link but from what I just read sap with pure sucrose will have lighter color syrup. Sap with small amounts of fructose and glucose will produce darker syrup.
Just specualting here, that a high water table that harbors bacteria 12 months a yr could contribute to darker syrup. Also, like Ulbian said, low snow cover in early spring would contribute to bacteria growth too. So there is more than one reason for color variation.
It comes down to sugar content. The higher the sugar content in the sap the lighter it will be. 5 years ago the first batch we did finished off had the same color as Miller High Life and the sap/syrup ratio was around 21:1. For some reason that year everyone around us hit the same thing early on and then it darkened up as the season progressed. We've never come close to that sugar content since and will probably never see it again.
This year it was opposite. Sugar content was low to begin with and even the early stuff looked like it was 'late' syrup. That warm spell in February threw things out of whack and knocked the frost out of the ground. This year was atypical so it's not one to use as a benchmark. We had trees that budded out in early March but were kicking out the cleanest, strongest sap last weekend. Usually when they are loaded with buds the sap is junk. On the other hand, trees that were not budded out were kicking out yellow slime.
My week off is over and I spent more time not boiling than boiling. A few decent runs but nothing overly great. Finished two more batches of syrup and it was lighter colored, so just my first was dark so far. Hoping to have one more go at it next weekend and then will call it quits. As long as any sap I get stays good anyway.
Half of my trees I tapped in February during the warm spell and I saw no difference in production. Those older ones have a slight bit of mold though. Would not be afraid to tap early again.
I'm also adding a little plumbing project for next weekend. Going to run a hot water line to my outside faucet so I can use hot water with my hose. Will just add a couple valves to control what I want. I just need 4' of pex and some fittings, should be quick. Thinking having hot water like that should speed up cleanup.
Just a quick story on the other side of the spectrum. A relative of mine has a big operation, their best day this year was 18,000 gal of sap. I think the stress level goes way up when you get big. A little cooker in the backyard is always more enjoyable. Have fun with it....
We are now up to 300+ gals of sap boiled so far with 72 pints of finished product , it's running better with the warmer temps and cooler nights . Seems the sugar content has risen in the sap , account we reach the desired sugar content when we haven't evaporated as much sap . Also , our last two boils resulted in dark amber syrup '
We are located north and west of Solon Springs about 20 miles .
Finally started running for me, got about 50 gallons of sap yesterday on 64 taps. Then today, hardly a thing. Been my year so far but the weekend should be good. Still have some snow and ice to melt, woods is slick. Boiled a small batch earlier in the week and it was really dark, kinda weird but tastes fine. Curious now to see what the next will be.