Friday, March 20, 2020

Maple Syrup. The finishing process

Ok So if you read yesterdays post you now know HOW to collect and boil the maple sap. Today we "FINISH" as the sappers say.

Note: I might also say this could be a good math lesson for students working from home now that school is closed. See the ending.

So after a full 8 hours of boiling yesterday this morning it is time to "finish off". As you can see this requires some changes in the set up. First the cover on the boiler has been removed. This allows you to see and freely stir the boiling sap a lot. And dip in to take hydrometer readings. By the way, after some experimenting I found that keeping the main cover on and leaving only a small 6" diameter hole open for steam to escape increased the boil off rate. I also started a nice warming fire so the sapper (me) can take the chill off and warm hands. This will also be a nice touch at night if I boil late into the evening. Maybe a little wine to go with the steam. Finishing at night though is a very bad idea as much light is needed to keep an eye on the sap and keep it from foaming and burning.

OK now this is key. The dipper has been filled with concentrated liquid from the boiler (lower left). The Brix hydrometer has been placed in the hot liquid and is floating, showing the red line, indicating the proper concentration of sugar at this temperature. This is the only way to go and get good consistent syrup, batch to batch.

No time to waste now.  It took 1.5 hours and some constant stirring to finish off the boil and reduce the sap to this concentration. The heat has been shut off and a canner/cooker pot with a linen cloth clothes pinned to strain the product thru. There will be some lime that has boiled out of the sap and you do not want that in your syrup. Some syrup makers use a felt sake filter if you can believe it. Imagine cleaning that out every time.

While the finished syrup is hot it should be poured off into quart fruit jars. If you put the lids and rings on as it cools they will seal and they can be stored or given away to friends and family.

This is what it is all about. When I was a kid my old neighbor, Kenny Pergande, on special Saturday mornings, used to treat me to his egg pancakes. Kenny and June didn't have any kids so I lucked out. He made them in his seasoned cast iron frying pan. They filled the whole pan and were only 1/8" thick. Nothing like what my Mom made. Then he would bring out the Maple Syrup and I would pour it on and then roll the pancake up like a fruit roll-up

Cutting off pieces and enjoying every bite. Brought back a lot of memories. One time Kenny had me and my buddies catch bullfrogs for him  (50 cents a piece) and he fried up the legs! But that is for another time.

Now, about that math lesson...

A lot of people used to ask me questions about the process.
How much sap does it take to make a gallon of Maple Syrup? Answer - 40 gallons of sap
What is in the Log Cabin syrup you buy in the store? Answer - 98% corn syrup and maybe 2% real Maple Syrup!
Can you make syrup from other trees? Answer - Only the Sugar Maple (hard or soft type) has the necessay amount of sugar in it's sap to make it worth while and the right flavor. All trees have a "sap run" in the spring, but I just cannot imagine the taste of syrup from a Walnut tree.
How much LP gas does it take and what does it cost to make a gallon of syrup? The simple Answer is, a lot! Now here's where the math comes in.

Here are the facts:

What is called a 100 (123 actual) gallon LP tank (used empty tank costs $200) when filled can hold 100 gallons of liquidfied petroleum  (LP). The LP is under pressure and needs some space in the tank to become a gas and pass through the regulator. In the picture above you can see the tank shut off valve, the regulator, fill and pressure relief valves and tank volume gauge. When "full" the tank gauge will indicate 80%. I can tell you that 90 gallons of LP was pumped into the tank to fill it (must have been 10 gallons in the tank to start with). 90 gallons of LP cost me $126.

To boil (for 8 hours) 50 gallons of sap and then boil for another 1.5 hours to "finish off" my first batch
I got 5 quarts of 100% pure Maple Syrup. The volume gauge on the LP tank went from 80% down to 70%.

1. What does a gallon of LP cost?
2. About how many gallons of LP was burned going from 80% to 70% in the tank
3. Roughly what does it cost per hour to run the cooker?
4. What did the LP cost to make 5 quarts of syrup?
5. About how many hours of cooking can I get per 100 gallons of LP?
6. Bonus - How many gallons of syrup can you make from on 100 gallons of LP?

1. 126 / 90 = $1.40 per gallon
2. 80/90 is to 100/ X =  112.5 at 100% so each 10% of gauge reading = 11.25 gallons of LP
3. 11.25 gal. LP  / 9.5 Hrs. = 1.18 gal LP x $1.40 = $1.65 per hour for LP
4. $1.65 per hr. x 9.5 hrs. = $15.75 LP cost to make 5 quarts
5. If it took 9.5 hours to go down from 80% to 70% then I would say that 8 x 9.5 hrs = 76 hours
6. Bonus - I would say one "batch" took 9.5 hours of cooking and made 5 quarts. Looks like at that rate of LP burning I could do that 8 times on 100 gallons of LP. So, 8 batches of 5 quarts = 40 quarts / 4 quarts to a gallon and I should be able to make 10 GALLONS of Pure Maple Syrup. That's going to cover a lot of pancakes!

Next up... Calculating the rate of evaporation out of the "Feed Can" to the cooker per centimeter of drop on the meter stick gauge?

What's this a picture of and why is it important?

Well this is what 1 gallon of liquid looks like in the bottom of the cooker. I used red food coloring to get this to show up.

And here is what 2 gallons of liquid looks like in the bottom of the boiler.

Go to go collect sap now. More later...

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