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Thread: Basic flat pan question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Holmes, NY
    Posts
    17

    Default Basic flat pan question

    Hello,

    This will be my 3rd season making syrup from about 10 trees. I now use two full-size Vollrath SS steam pans, and while I'm happy that I get syrup, I'm looking to improve the maple flavor. I understand that taste will differ depending on when the sap was collected, but I feel the lack of big maple flavor may have to do with my technique.

    I basically start boiling with cold sap in two pans, and after some time top off what's been boiling in the hotter pan with fresh sap that's been warmed in the pan that's on the cooler end of the arch. It's a cinder block arch and it will boil both pans, but the one furthest from the chimney is cooler. I add fresh sap to that cooler pan as needed. That's been my process the last two seasons. Boil off everything I have but the syrup ends up in the pan by the chimney at the end

    Is my technique the reason I don't seem to get as much of a maple flavor? Should I just load each pan and boil them down, pour that syrup off and start again with fresh syrup in the pans?

    Thanks for any advice you might have for me.

    Looking forward to a good 2020-2021 sugaring season!

    --Peter

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Southern Ohio
    Posts
    1,105

    Default

    Are you using sugar maples or red/other maples? I don't think it's your methods, flavor is more determined by your trees. Maybe Dr. Tim can comment and give some insight
    125-150 taps
    Smokey Lakes Full pint Hybrid pan
    Modified half pint arch
    Air over fire
    All 3/16 tubing
    Southern Ohio

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Oneida NY
    Posts
    10,948

    Default

    Does you syrup have a slight burnt taste? Since most using steam pans have them set up so they end up getting a burnt line on the sides of the pan, that can have a big affect on the flavor. A flat pan, set up so only the bottom of the pan is exposed to the intense heat (and if you never run too low in the pan) the taste will be better. Also, what grade (how dark) is your syrup? Very light color has very little flavor, the darker it is the stronger the maple flavor.
    Dave Klish about 400 taps, down from much more. Will hold about the same for 2021
    2012 Mahindra 36 HP 4x4/ loader/cab/heat/AC:-)
    3x8 raised flue evaporator
    250 GPH converted to electric, RO by Ray Gingerich
    6.32 KW solar system, 1.48KW is battery backed up, all net metered
    website: www.cnymaple.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    chester, ma
    Posts
    469

    Default

    As others have said, and as I think you know already - the trees and when you get the sap from them has much more to do with the taste than how you boil. If anything, you will get a very slightly darker syrup (and stronger flavor) from your batch boil than someone would with a continuous flow pan.

    That said, I do want to make one comment on your technique:

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterHolmes View Post
    I basically start boiling with cold sap in two pans, and after some time top off what's been boiling in the hotter pan with fresh sap that's been warmed in the pan that's on the cooler end of the arch. It's a cinder block arch and it will boil both pans, but the one furthest from the chimney is cooler. I add fresh sap to that cooler pan as needed
    It would be more efficient to put fresh sap in your hotter (closer to the chimney) pan. Your objective should not be to have a "warming" pan, but to maintain a good boil at all times in both pans. The best way to do that is to add small amounts of fresh sap to your hotter pan, so that the boil only stops for a few seconds, and then picks right up again. Then when you move boiling sap from that pan to the cooler pan, it keeps a good boil going there.

    When I started doing it that way it increased my gallons per hour by almost a third!

    Cheers,

    Gabe
    2016: Homemade arch from old woodburning stove. 2 steam tray pans. 6 taps on buckets. 1.1 gall syrup
    2017: Same homemade evaporator, but souped up. Still 2 steam tray pans. 15 taps on buckets. 4.5 galls syrup.
    2018: Same setup. Limited time. 12 taps and short season. 2.2 gallons syrup.
    2019: Still very limited time. Downsized to 7 taps and a short season. 1.8 gallons syrup
    2020: 9 taps, new Mason 2x3 XL halfway through season, 2 gallons syrup
    2021: 17 taps on Mason 2x3 XL

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    chester, ma
    Posts
    469

    Default

    Regarding this part:

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterHolmes View Post
    Should I just load each pan and boil them down, pour that syrup off and start again with fresh syrup in the pans?
    This does not seem practical.

    Cheers,

    Gabe O
    2016: Homemade arch from old woodburning stove. 2 steam tray pans. 6 taps on buckets. 1.1 gall syrup
    2017: Same homemade evaporator, but souped up. Still 2 steam tray pans. 15 taps on buckets. 4.5 galls syrup.
    2018: Same setup. Limited time. 12 taps and short season. 2.2 gallons syrup.
    2019: Still very limited time. Downsized to 7 taps and a short season. 1.8 gallons syrup
    2020: 9 taps, new Mason 2x3 XL halfway through season, 2 gallons syrup
    2021: 17 taps on Mason 2x3 XL

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Holmes, NY
    Posts
    17

    Default

    Thanks to all of you for your quick and helpful input!
    I believe all my tapped trees are sugar maples. I ID them wen they have leaves and then tie some cord around them so I can find them later!
    No burned taste at all -- my syrup comes out being very sweet-- maybe a bit of a vanilla taste. Certainly some maple flavor is there, but it's not super big. My neighbor has a professional set up and let me taste his. It was just so much more maple-y than mine, and he's just around the block from my house.
    Thanks for the boiling tip Gabe-- makes sense, and I will be doing as you suggest this year.

    Such great body of knowledge here-- thanks!

    --Peter

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Mantorville, MN
    Posts
    52

    Default It's the trees

    Peter,
    I truly believe it's the trees and has nothing to do with your processing, since no burning.
    I have a sugar bush that incorporates sugar and black maples. Over the years we have produced a very light colored, sweet syrup with a mellow maple flavor. Last year we had a batch of syrup that was very dark with a more robust maple flavor. We then produced our more normal light colored, mellow flavored syrup. We did everything the same. Same evaporator, same wood for cooking, nothing different, except the sap the trees gave us. The sap all looked the same coming out of the trees. Can't control what Mother Nature throws you!
    Best of luck this year!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Weston, CT
    Posts
    243

    Default

    I've been making syrup in steam pans for 5 years now. My first year I had 11 different batch boils during the season. Went from VERY light to Medium to Medium Dark to light to Medium to Very Dark during that season. Got a cool picture of it all somewhere but this season would probably be over by the time I found it. I used three pans ( now four ) and move/scoop syrup well and draw/pre filter/ and finish else ware. I also use angle iron cross members to keep the sides of the pans out of the fire, such that fire only hits the bottoms of the pans. That results in little to no charring/burning on the sides. Over my experience I also learned that steam pan siphons work like a dream on pots of cold water in the kitchen, but out on the fire and in the roll they are a "pipe dream". Literally. So unless your boil rate is one gallon every 4 hours, do not bother with steam pan siphons.

    Starting with that first year I found it not uncommon for maple made in late January to taste like sugar with a bit of brown food coloring in it, and nothing more. Essentially, that is what it is. Might have this problem ( if that is what one wants to call it ) in late March as well, although I find it far less common at that time of the year.

    That is one of the many reasons I have started holding off, starting last year, with tapping early. I tapped mid Feb rather then late Jan and am glad I did. I am not a big fan of the light syrup and I think most feel the same. It is or once was the more expensive syrup because it was less common in supply. Not because it tasted better.

    I pack away my syrup made in batch boils into 1/2 gallon jars. Sometimes one full inch of sugar sand settles to the bottom of the jar after a few days, sometimes 1/8 settles to the bottom.

    Not sure if sugar sand has anything to do with flavor .... but if sugar sand can do this over the course of a season one could say to themselves ... "why the h is flavor not allowed to do the same thing?"

    Clearly it is allowed to do the same thing.

    So with all this said the number one thing to take away from "MY EXPERIENCE" is that the time of season your syrup was made has more to do with its flavor then anything. Other factors are involved such as how long you keep firing finished syrup by adding more sap and such.

    Now if a burnt pieces of wood are boiling along with your syrup, results are unpredictable.
    If you think it's easy to make good money in maple syrup .... then your obviously good at stealing somebody's Maple Syrup.

    Favorite Tree: Sugar Maple
    Most Hated Animal: Sap Sucker
    Most Loved Animal: Devon Rex Cat
    Favorite Kingpin: Bruce Bascom
    40 Sugar Maple Taps ... 23 in CT and 17 in NY .... 29 on gravity tubing and 11 on 5G buckets ... 2019 Totals 508 gallons of sap, 7 boils, 11.4 gallons of syrup.
    1 Girlfriend that gives away all my syrup to her friends.

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