View Full Version : First timer has questions

03-13-2009, 02:16 AM
I live about 10 minutes from Dodd's Sugar Shack in Niles (SW Michigan), so I ran over and got some taps and tubing and tapped the four huge roadside maples in my yard for the first time just before dark on the 4th. I put in 15 taps and had 20 gallons of sap in the barrel at noon the next day. I thought this will take a few days (to fill the barrel), so I have plenty of time to build the boiler. The next day at noon (Friday) the barrel was running over and I had to go get another one (I'm using plastic barrels that had sauterne cooking wine in them - no smell I can detect).

I built an arch from old cement blocks I had lying around to fit 20 x 12 inch SS steam table pans. I boiled 20 gallons of sap in 6 hours Saturday and got about a quart and a half of syrup. I boiled 30 gallons in 9 hrs Monday and got another 3 quarts. by then the second barrel had 40 gallons in it. I boiled that Wednesday and got four quarts of syrup.

I noticed that there are two flashpoints when boiling. One comes shortly after you add cold sap to a boiling pan. It is mostly large, foamy bubbles which I skim off. It only lasts a minute and then the pan settles down to boiling nicely. I start the pan off with two inches of sap and add more every time it boils down to an inch deep. I can tell when it is close to finished when it wants to boil at the sap boiling temp (219), which will run the pan over in a hurry with small, foamy brown bubbles if you aren't watching closely.

I took the syrup in the house for finishing, never letting it quite reach that second flashpoint out on the arch. I took it carefully right to 219 and had to control the heat carefully to keep it from boiling over as it reached that temp. I then filtered it through filters I got from Dodd and reheated it to 200 degrees and put it in the bottles I got from him. The syrup is all very dark like the grade C stuff I used to buy (made by Dodd), but it tastes just as good, so I'm happy.

Now, here are my questions. I fininshed in a heavy aluminum pan on the cookstove in the house. Is there anything wrong with aluminum? I've read here not to use galvanized, but I've seen nothing on aluminum. The other question is, is there any way to stop getting the charred ring of sap in the pan at the surface of the boiling liquid when boiling down outside? It flakes off into the syrup. It gets filtered out, of course, and doesn't seem to affect the taste any, but I would like to keep the process cleaner if I can. Lastly, what is the secret to getting the clear, golden colored syrup? Mine all looks black in the bottles, but has the golden color when poured thin onto pancakes.

It's a lot of hard work for a couple of gallons of syrup, but I must be nuts because I'm thinking of buying a commercial unit and tapping all 26 acres of the woods out back. I've got plenty of dead ash from the emeral ash borer blight, so I've got plenty of fuel handy.

Thanks for any feedback.


03-13-2009, 06:25 AM
sounds like the bug has bitten you bad;) with the batch system you doing now it is real hard to get fancy light syrup because of leath of time on the heat tends to carmelize the sugars making them darker. with an arch you can draw off a little syrup everyso often and that bit isn't boiling waiting for the rest to get to syrup.

the charded ring comes from the flames getting to the sides of the pans and burning that top edge where there is no sap to disapate the heat. most people on the trader who do steam pans say it doesn't effect the taste and a couple have rigged things up so their pans are supported and the heat just gets to the bottoms.

i finish off in an Al. ducth oven seem to work well

have a fun weekend the weather sounds like good runs should be happening

03-13-2009, 06:25 AM
I dontknow about aluminum. I wont use it for the same reason that you talked about. The scorched ring around your pan is common, and is caused by sap splashing up on the sides, and getting cooked down to syrup and scorching then flaking off. Ive never tried to avoid it. I just scrub the pan at the end of the season.

You have 26 acres available? GO FOR IT!

If you end up using tubing, I recomend never leaving it in the woods. Some people do with little trouble. I had 12 acres on tubing that I left in the woods all year, and critters ruined it all. I used to lay the tubing right on the ground. It had droops where sap would collect. This year I streched high tensile wire to hang the tubing on. I have no droops now. It is all sloped, and tight, and all the sap runs down hill right out of the tubing. I LOVE it. I will be able to take the tubing out, leave the wire in, and be able to follow the wire next spring to know where to put the tubing back in at. I love this high tensile wire plan!

03-13-2009, 06:49 AM
The web is full of statements like these from health experts concering aluminum cookware: "no clear evidence has shown that normal aluminum exposure can cause harm."

A large percentage of cookware is aluminum so it's considered "food grade." We used aluminum pans for boiling for years.

Clan Delaney
03-13-2009, 07:38 AM
Try to get some sap pre-heating going to avoid dumping cold sap in the boiling pan. You end up with a better evap rate. Borrow some of your *cough* wife's cake pans and set them on the corners of your boiling pans, and pre-heat sap in them. It should get to 160-180 in 15 to 20 minutes. Worked for me.

03-13-2009, 08:02 AM
Since the most common metal in the soil is aluminium every thing we eat has it in it to a tiney degree. The tiney bit that we could get from a pot would not come close to the water we drink. It is stated in a early post about the fact anti acids have a years worth of the metal in one tablet.

maple flats
03-13-2009, 08:25 PM
Some studies suggest that cooking in aluminum can be one of the causes of alshiemers, or I think that is what I heard.

03-14-2009, 07:16 AM
Take an aluminum pot and cook up some scrambled eggs in it. Most likely you'll taste the aluminum in the eggs. With larger batch's of syrup you might not notice it, but it's there.

03-14-2009, 07:41 AM
I oringinally bought a large what I thought was a 32 quart ss pot but after reading the fine print when I got home turned out to be aluiminium and took it back to the store and told them it should be clearer print. They gave me my money back and I hunted down a SS one finally. Most kitchens have beat up aluminium pots all warped and such from to much heat so I could just see what my evaporator would have done to one.