Inspired by Rink Mann's book "Backyard Sugarin'", I decided to build a homemade, makeshift evaporator. Rink's philosophy is to use as much Yankee ingenuity and as little cash as possible. I had some old cinder blocks laying around the yard so I used them to build a simple fire pit with a flue in the back. I lined it with gravel and put an 18 x 24 inch oven rack over the front and a piece of slate over the back section helping create draft and giving me a warming shelf. Keeping with the backyard sugaring spirit I decided not to buy a special pan and use a 12" diameter, 6" deep graniteware pot we already had.
The first day of boiling was not very productive. I started late, about 10 am, and for the first few hours I didn't have the fire hot enough, so the sap was really simmering more than boiling. Even after I got the fire roaring and a good rolling boil going I was only able to cook off about a gallon of water an hour. I ended up boiling down about 6 or 7 gallons of sap and my eight hour day yielded only 2 1/2 cups of delicious, but very hard earned, grade A fancy maple syrup.
Today it's raining, and I only have about 10 gallons of sap collected anyway, so this will be a day for staying inside and making music. Erica is on her way over for Homegrown String Band practice and a taste of the fruit of Dad's labor. Now I know why real maple syrup is so expensive, it is incredibly time consuming to make. The syrup I made, if I do say so myself, is the best I've ever had. Now with my new rig I should be able to boil down 30 to 40 gallons in a day for a yield of nearly a gallon of Rooster Rick's Grade A Fancy Maple Syrup.
I ended up with a gallon and a half of syrup over 4 days of boiling. I never hit that fanciful 30 - 40 gallon a day mark. I think the most sap I boiled in one day was about 20 gallons. My last day of boiling I got severely dehydrated which wiped me out for a couple days. I was also running out of dry wood, so I decided to pull my taps and pack it in for this year. I had a couple gallons of sap left, so I followed a recipe for traditional New England maple beer from Stephan Bruhner's Sacred and Healing Brews. I boiled the sap down to one gallon, pitched in some ale yeast, and let it ferment in a small carboy for a couple weeks. The resulting brew was fairly weak and tasteless. If I try brewing maple beer again next year I'll boil 4 or 5 gallons of sap down to one gallon and then ferment.
2016 Maple Sugaring Blog
2015 Maple Sugaring Blog
2014 Maple Sugaring Blog