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Thread: Is it safe to consume cloudy syrup with nitre (niter) ?

  1. #1
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    Default Is it safe to consume cloudy syrup with nitre (niter) ?

    Greetings,

    My question is whether it's safe - in terms of health - to consume cloudy syrup.

    I think the cloudiness is from what folks refer to as nitre, or niter.
    I'm quite sure it's not mold.

    For some reason, about half of my syrup was still cloudy even after having filtered it.
    Some of the cloudiness settled down over time, but I was still left with more cloudy product than in previous years.

    I only make a quart or less of finished product per year (yes, that's all !). It's a ritual for me, mostly, to mark the season and what it means for me to live in Vermont.

    It doesn't taste as good as the clear stuff, but I hate to toss out half of my efforts; I could use it to sweeten tea or some thing.

    I use one of those paper filters, and in past years, it has worked well enough to leave me with a clear product.

    Question: Any comments on any possible health concerns?

    Question: Any ideas on why there was more cloudiness this year?
    I think I may have re-used an existing paper filter. Could that be the culprit? Perhaps washing the filter damages or enlarges the pores, so more sediment passed through? Or might it have to do with my process? Boiling temperature? Density? I am using a hydrometer and my aging eyeballs to look at that red line. I may have gone over the line in terms of density, added back some fresh sap to back it down, and then boiled for another few minutes to hit my mark again. I think my product was at the proper density when I finally poured it through the filter.

    I look forward to hearing from any folks.

    Mr. T. Grizzly

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrtgrizzly View Post
    My question is whether it's safe - in terms of health - to consume cloudy syrup.
    It depends. If the sap was collected and processed with lead-free equipment, then the niter won't be a big problem. If the equipment did have lead in it, then the sugar sand can have a VERY high amount of lead in it and shouldn't be consumed without filtering. You'll find that it probably tastes funny (niter off-flavor, which might get worse over time), is gritty between your teeth (less pleasant to consume), and might give you a mild case of diarrhea.

    Any syrup that is sold is required to be clear (not cloudy) and free of niter.

    Couldn't you just decant off the liquid syrup (leaving most of the niter in the bottom of the jar), then reheat it and refilter the syrup?

    Cleaning filters is fine as long as you are gentle with them. Wringing them out by twisting will break the fibers and make small holes that will allow the niter to pass.
    Dr. Tim Perkins
    UVM Proctor Maple Research Ctr
    http://www.uvm.edu/~pmrc
    Timothy.Perkins@uvm.edu

  3. #3
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    Dr. Perkins,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Thanks for the info about lead and other factors.

    Here is more info on my process:

    I did not use any equipment with lead. Just stainless pots and stainless spoons, and glass, all the way. There may have been an aluminum funnel that cradled my paper filter, when pouring the sap into my bottles. I tried to be careful regarding possible contamination from various points of contact.
    I do try and take care when washing the filters, but I can't recall how fresh the filter was.

    Fortunately, I can, and I have decanted off the clear liquid.
    I may have tried reheating and re-filtering (I can't remember). It I did, it didn't do much.
    I haven't tried reheating and re-filtering what's left at this point, though, because there is only about cup of the cloudy stuff left at this point and I was not sure it would do anything.
    Fortunately, my cloudy syrup isn't gritty, but it does have a slightly off sort of taste.

    I was just surprised that there was more cloudy liquid this time (about a third was cloudy), while in the past, most of it was clear.

    Thanks!

  4. #4
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    One thing you didn't mention is your packing temp. Syrup needs to be at least 185*F at the time the cap goes on for safe canning and a good seal. Though your description sounds more like niter than mold to me (mold is more likely to form from the top down rather than from the bottom up since mold needs oxygen to grow), I'd still expect most of your syrup to be completely settled out by now especially if it was packed a few months ago. If it were me I'd reheat it, refilter and repack just to be safe.

    If you added uncooked sap to dilute overdense syrup, that could be a route of contamination, depending on the temp of the syrup at the time of dilution and the amount of sap added. Freshly boiled syrup is practically sterile. Sap is not and would need both high temps and time to kill whatever microbes it contains. I'd want to make sure the syrup was at or near boiling temps when diluting. If you need to add a lot of sap I'd probably want to at least bring that sap to a boil for a few minutes before adding to very hot syrup.

    I think you also mentioned using a paper filter? Filters need to be washed very gently because they can break down with rough handling and wringing, but I'm not sure you should even attempt to wash a paper filter. Either freeze it between uses or use them one time and toss.

    You can probably salvage most of it. When making small amounts, even a single drop of syrup is a terrible thing to waste Good luck!
    “A sap-run is the sweet good-bye of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the sun and frost.”
    ~John Burroughs, "Signs and Seasons", 1886

    backyard mapler since 2006 using anything to get the job done from wood stove to camp stove to even crockpots.
    2012- moved up to a 2 pan block arch
    2013- plan to add another hotel pan and shoot for 5-6 gallons
    Thinking small is best for me so probably won't get any bigger.

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    Hats off to you Mr T. Grizzly. To have a person that is so dedicated to the arts of our ancestors that he takes the time to make his product is GREAT! We are all in such a rush now days and we are all concernted about making as much as we can, it is refreshing to hear of your story.

    Thanks Ben

  6. #6
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    Thank you Happy Thoughts for your input.

    I too am surprised that the cloudiness hasn't settled out. Imagine a 1-pint ball jar, and there is 2" of height of cloudy syrup at bottom.

    I did add uncooked sap to dilute the over-dense syrup, and probably let the mixture boil for 1-3 minutes. I forget how long. Maybe not long enough.
    Thank you for reminding me about that issue of contamination.

    But the cloudiness doesn't seem like mold. And doesn't taste like mold, either. And the cloudiness didn't "grow." It has been there since the start.
    Maybe it's the filter.

    Because this is just for personal use, I poured my hot syrup (probably in the target temperature range) into a glass Ball Jar that I had cleaned (but not sterilized) with soap and hot water beforehand. I have kept the syrup in the fridge. I have not had any problems with mold or cloudiness in the past when taking my glass jars to the local COOP to fill them with bulk maple syrup from the spigots there.

    I will try reheating the syrup and filtering again and I'll post an update on how that goes.

    Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Greetings friends and followers of this thread.

    It is 8 months later and I am submitting an update, as promised, because I finally (!) got around to reheating my "cloudy" syrup and filtering again to see if I could get a less cloudy finished product.
    First, I can report that over 8 months, the cloudiness did settle down a little bit, enabling me to decant some clear syrup from the top, but in my little 8 oz jar, there was still 1 inch of cloudy product.

    Unfortunately, I do not have a photo to show what was going on.
    But I did have the presence of mind to include a photo of this round's results.

    The final verdict? I was able to get a less cloudy product, but it still has an opaque quality to it.
    The previous result had a tan or grey opaque color (nitre ?). This result is more amber and a little more clear.

    You can see the verdict in the photo I have uploaded. It's the center sample.
    I'm surprised it's still opaque, because I was able to get a clear product from the same batch, at another time during my filtering process.
    You can see that sample on the left.
    The sample on the right is from another local producer.

    Method:
    I used a paper filter that appeared unused.
    If I do this again, for the sake of a controlled experiment, I'll use a filter that I know for sure is fresh.
    Because I had less than a pint of syrup to work with, I added some more syrup to my little sauce pan from another local maker who sells on a professional basis, so that I had more than a 1/4 inch to work with that wouldn't burn.
    I added a splash of filtered water to the pan, brought it all to a boil, boiled for a few minutes, and then filtered the liquid into my jar immediately.
    There wasn't enough to take a hydrometer reading, but this didn't matter because I'm just checking for transparency.
    I'm also not concerned about proper hot packing technique because this is for personal use and will be refrigerated and used in my tea.

    Any thoughts, based on the photo or other clues?

    Perhaps the culprit is still the filter? At least this result doesn't have the tan milky quality like before. It's reassuring to see some improvement.

    Thanks for all your input.

    Best,

    Mr. T. Grizzly

    NOTE: Click on image for enlargement!

    maple_syrup_comparisons.jpg
    Last edited by mrtgrizzly; 11-04-2013 at 09:21 AM.

  8. #8
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    mrtgrizzly

    What are you using for a paper filter? If it's is a prefilter, it will usually leave the syrup a little cloudy as they(prefilters) are meant to be used with a felt filter. The prefilter catches most of the niter and makes cleaning the felt filter much easier to clean.

  9. #9
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    Yes, I am using a pre-filter.

    And you could very well be right about why the syrup isn't clear.

    I'm just puzzled, because I have used this method for 4 seasons and in the past I have been able to have a final product that's clear (as you can see in the photo I posted). And the first pint that I filtered this past season came out clear as well.

    I actually do have a felt filter, but because I am only making 1-2 pints, I am reluctant to use it, for fear that most of my syrup will be absorbed into the filter !

    Thanks.

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