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Making Maple Syrup in Parry SoundGo to Slide Show

Making Syrup from Sugar Maples

Kyle on Snow

My grandfather made maple syrup and he taught his children, including my father.   Growing up, I never happened to be around my grandfathers farm to learn how maple syrup was made and I didn't want to the first generation to say I've never made syrup.  My project at work was completing around the end of February and I was long overdue for a trip to back east so Andrea and I and my parents booked a trip back east to see if we could catch the maple sap flowing and make maple syrup!  Before we go any further I should introduce two of the locals (and my second cousins) - Kyle and Kaitlyn.  They are old hands at making maple syrup and provided guidance through out the process.

Caitlin on Snow

Tapped Maple Tree

First, I have to say that the majority of the hard work was done before we arrived.  A week before, my uncle and cousin spent a day drilling and connecting tubes to trees (tapping the trees).  Years before that, they ran large gage tubes over the landscape and into a vat that would store a day's run of syrup.  And finally, the trees making the sap itself.  As the sun came up, the trees would warm up to above freezing and sap would run in the trees.  Part of the sap would drain into the tubes, flow into the main lines and collect in the vat.

Kyle Holding Lines

Lines From Sap Vat

Saturday, the temperature rose to just -10°c - not warm enough to pump sap.  Sunday (thankfully) was much warmer and by the early afternoon the sap stored in the vat had melted enough so that it could be pumped.  My uncle has run a tube from the collecting vat, and a power line to pump the sap out to a road side.  Using an ATV, he hauls a generator and 45 gallon drums to hold the sap.  Turn on the generator, power the pump and a few seconds later cold, nearly clear sap is flowing into the 45 gallon drums.  Thankfully, today the sap ran!  We collected at least 30 gallons of sap (probably more - I didn't really check)

Waiting for Syrup to FlowTasting Sap

Quad Leaving

After pumping the sap into the drums, they are covered and driven back to the farm where the water is removed (evaporated) out of the sap. 

Evaporator Shed

My uncle has refined the evaporating process over the years.  It takes a lot of energy to boil such a large volume of liquid and a lot of time for the sap to concentrate into syrup.  The shed holds a wood burning stove with has been modified so that the fumes from the fire run over the length of the large evaporator pan.

Cleaned Evaporator Pan

Making syrup from sap really involves two steps - boiling the water our of the sap and filtering the sap to remove any impurities.  Before the raw sap is put in the evaporator pan, it is filtered through two layers of felt to remove any wood pieces, sand and gravel (which the trees somehow suck up and drain) and anything else that might have fallen into the tubes.
Filter on Evaporator Pan

And then you leave the sap to boil.  And boil.  And boil.  You only put in a thin layer of sap so that the surface area is maximized.  Periodically you come out and filter another few gallons of sap into the evaporator.

Vat BoilingBoiling Sap in Large Evaporator

And boil.  To help pass the time we decided to go for a little snowmobile ride.  There is a large waterfall a few lakes over that freezes in the winter.  Kyle and Kaitlyn showed me the caves formed behind the ice wall and how to hide there.

Family in Front of Ice FallsHiding Behind Ice WallIce Cave

Caitlin and Kyle on Snow

Panning Out Concentrated SapSocks on the Table

We boil the sap until it's just a thin layer in the evaporator pan.  The concentrated sap is then filtered (again) and put in a smaller pan for further boiling.  This propane powered stove offers a more controllable heat than the fire powered stove and the sap will boil here for a few more hours.

Boiling Down in a Smaller Vat

Thermometer in Syrup

In the smaller pan we introduce another tool - the thermometer.  As the sap concentrates, the boiling point rises.  The goal for syrup is 219.5 °F (about 7 degrees higher than the boiling point of water).  When the boiling point is close, we bring the sap in for a few more passes through filters (felt and a specially designed "sock") and then finishing on the stove where we can watch the temperature exactly.

Filtering into BucketSocks on the TablePot on Stove

Finished Bottles of Syrup

Once the critical temperature is reached, the heat is reduced and the bottles come out of the oven.  Very carefully (the bottles are too hot to touch and the sap would burn badly if it touched skin) the sap is panned out of the pot and into a funnel to fill the bottle.  The sap is quite dark, especially considering it is some of the first sap of the year.  The theory among my uncle and cousin is that the sap sat in the vat for days while the weather didn't agree with us.  I've tasted the syrup - it's very good.

Quad Leaving
Caitlin on Snow
Person: Caitlin
Tags: snow
Socks on the Table
Caitlin and Kyle on Snow
Person: Caitlin, Kyle
Vat Boiling
Boiling Down in a Smaller Vat
Kyle Holding Lines
Tags: snow
Tapped Maple Tree
Thermometer in Syrup
Lines From Sap Vat
Hiding Behind Ice Wall
Person: Caitlin, Kyle
Tasting Sap
Filtering into Bucket
Tags: bucket
Evaporator Shed
Family in Front of Ice Falls
Tags: snow, waterfall
Boiling Sap in Large Evaporator
Filter on Evaporator Pan
Pot on Stove
Ice Cave
Kyle on Snow
Person: Kyle
Finished Bottles of Syrup
Panning Out Concentrated Sap
Waiting for Syrup to Flow
Cleaned Evaporator Pan
Socks on the Table
Tags: snow(3), waterfall(1), bucket(1)
People: Kyle(3), Caitlin(3)
From: John Harvey Photo > Pictures of People > Making Maple Syrup in Parry Sound

Thank you for your website. My 4 year-old daughter has just had maple syrup on her pancakes, and was really interested in the information on your site. She was enchanted by the pictures of the snow!
Wednesday, September 12th, 2007 at 10:57:50

Thank-you for giving details. I'm from Oswego, N.Y. and now in Kansas, I remembered most of the process but not how many times it has to be boiled and filtered. I felt the Lord telling me to use this example to teach our womens group tonight. Oh,how we get filtered and boiled in our daily lives as we grow in Him. I really enjoyed the pictures too, I miss the snow!! God Bless and enjoy the syrup, Cheryl
Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 at 10:08:50

Hi, just read your article and I fancy having a go at this next year. First attempt we might just do it all manualy. I found your article very useful as I previously had no idea. If there are any tips you can give to a first time tapper it would be appreciated. We have just bought a plot of land in New Brunswick and I am told it has 2000 maple trees, I am guessing they need to be a certain size before tapping? First time I will be happy if we nake enough just to show the kids how to do it. Good article, thanks, Peter
peter james
Sunday, October 28th, 2007 at 07:48:07

Thank you!! My 6 year old daughter and I were curious about syrup making this morning and your page came up when we googled- very interesting and informative! We're in Georgia and don't get snow like that, lol. We both enjoyed looking at your pics, too, especially the frozen waterfall :) ~ namaste! michele
Sunday, November 18th, 2007 at 06:24:43

Hi! We have a sponsored child in Guatemala. I wanted to send him a history of maple syrup making, espcially with lots of pictures as he only speaks Spanish and someone will have to translate the words for him. I think he will really find it interesting--I did, and we live in taping country, too. :)
Tuesday, March 4th, 2008 at 08:50:46

good slide show
Thursday, March 20th, 2008 at 06:35:17

Thank you SOOO much for the useful information. I live in Zumbrota, Minnesota. Last weekend a Maintenance man from work told me all about making maple syrup and his enthusiasm was contagious. I live in town and have two large maple trees. Today I followed his and your instructions and tapped the trees. It was prime tapping as the sap poured out of them. I cooked and cooked and cooked the sap and have almost one quart of syrup to show for it. This has been a very delightful day and I'm so impressed with the finished product. Thank you for the excellent slide show! Cathy
Saturday, March 29th, 2008 at 18:50:12

I was looking for pictures of Maple Syrup production and came across your site. It is really quite wonderful. I hope you will come down to the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair Nov 7-16 to see the exhibit we have entered into our Maple Syrup Competition. If you are ever interested in information on the competition or the fair - let us know. Have a great year with production and family. Sally Andrews Royal Winter Fair - Agriculture Show
Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 at 09:21:21

Hi! A fun website to read. I used to tap trees in northern Maine until I moved to Alaska. I think I miss the spring activity of sugaring more than anything else I did in the lower 48. My wife and I just purchased 42 acres with sugar maples in the U.P. of Michigan for our retirement home and I'm looking forward to the day that we will move back and settle there permanently. (Only four more years!) So thank you for getting me all excited again. My four sons used to help me gather sap. I did it the old fashioned way... drilled with a bit and brace, used the old fashioned spiles, and used heavy duty gallon freezer bags tied to the spile. They were inexpensive and worked well. As a retired school teacher and current university professor, I'm delighted to see that you have made maple sugaring a family project. Sounds and looks fun. Thanks for sharing! Tom
Tom Pennington
Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 20:01:50

I just finished reading "Miracles on Maple Hill" to my children, and then we searched for pictures of the way it was done in the book. Thank you for showing the evaporator pans. My kids couldn't quite understand it until we saw it on your website. Thanks again.
Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 11:37:49

Thank you for the tips on this adventure you went on. As I'm writing this e-mail, I'm at my waiting period of my sap to further boil down. I only have two tree's in my yard on which i can tap and it produced ten gallons of sap in 1.5 weeks. So here i what to make some syrup.

Its a fun, playful thing to do and some time when my 6 month old daughter gets older, she can help me and have fun. All i need now is to buy more land to tap more trees

Saturday, February 20th, 2010 at 09:14:14

I was making a power point about the making of maple syrup for a class when I came across your sight. It was very helpful and I really enjoyed the pictures. Thanks for your helpful information!!
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 at 12:33:52

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