If DIY maple syrup is on your bucket list, then I’ve put this post together specifically for you. If you find the subject intriguing but aren’t up for long hours of daily sap gathering and late-night boiling, or don’t live where the climate is conducive to making maple syrup, then you might want to just read my collection of DIY maple syrup posts for fun and search Amazon for a nice family shop where they do all the work and you enjoy all the sweet rewards.
When the morning sun is peaking her head over the horizon–bursting with streaks of soothing purples and vibrant pinks on the best mornings–the day holds so much promise that can ooze through little everyday moments all along the 16-or-17-hours-worth of minutes ahead of me. This morning is one of those mornings. I stoke the fire, let Bixby out to romp in the snow, and unconciously offer an almost silent, deep, satisfied sigh at the sight on the counter from last night’s efforts. To anyone who really knows what they’re doing when it comes to DIY maple syrup, it would look extremely meager and far-from-optimal, but to me it’s golden.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links.
Since our maple syrup operation manager (aka, my husband, the syrup fanatic) has spent much less money on propane in his DIY maple syrup efforts this year, compared to last year, even though he’s tapped twice as many maples, I splurged on one box of some fancy jars for him to use, along with our ball jars.
Why my splurge? Not so much to make my awesome husband feel professional (although that is a bonus), but mainly to try to conserve our liquid gold. You see, now that he’s gotten his operation running a little smoother and more productively, he’s giving away his efforts to friends and family. And the new jars are half the volume of a pint canning jar. The professional looking jars, because they’re so “authentic” allow him to look even more “generous,” while giving away less of his blood-sweet-and-bucketful-of-sap-hauling tears.
Okay, he’s never once cried while hauling the overflowing buckets. I guess that was me crying, those times that he spilt the sweet-promising sap.
If you’d like some fancy, professional-looking jars for your DIY maple syrup operation, here’s a link to a case of these pretty glass bottles.
But the real focus of my post is on an important fact I skimmed over a few paragraphs back.
Did you catch it?
We spent much less money on propane in our DIY maple syrup operation this year than last. And in this post I’m gonna not only tell you how but also give you direct links to all you need to know if you would like to do the same. You can even scroll to the end of this post if you’d like handy links to the products you would need if you have a hankering to build what my husband built to save hundreds of dollars.
Take a Second to Save These Posts for Later
I know I come across helpful pointers online all the time that I plan on coming back to, only to realize later that I didn’t save the information, or I saved it but don’t remember where I saved it. So I wanted to save you the 20-minute heartache of floundering around for this muli-part DIY syrup series when you need it. You can PIN each post right here, then keep reading…
PIN Part 2, (or read that one here) about when, where, and how to drill your taps. This post also covers how to know if you live where you can tap successfully and 7 questions you need to know the answers to before you tap your trees.
PIN Part 3, about a reverse osmosis filter–what it is, how to build one yourself, and how it can save you hundreds a year in your backyard syrup making process. (Or read about all of that now, right here.)
PIN Part 4, the step-by-step guide to boiling your sap. (Go here to read that one.) This posts walks you through every important detail you need to know when processing your syrup, from tree to pancake.
Plus, you’ll want to keep an eye out for my new book that’s currently in production: Sweet Maple. In the meantime, download my two seriously sweet free eBooks about maple as soon as you sign up!–>
What If You’re All New to This?
If you’re just starting out on this adventure of DIY maple syrup, just pin this post (you can pin it with this link) to visit next year or the year after. Take it slow and easy. Don’t worry about investing much money into your operation until you’ve tried it out and made sure this is really something you want to invest your time and efforts into. In fact, I’d recommend just trying to make a few jars this year, by tapping just a couple maple trees. (See this previous post about how we choose and mark the trees we want to tap.) Get a feel for the fickleness of the process and the huge time commitment it is that can’t really be planned for on your calendar, but has to be at the mercy of the weather forecast. (We’ve gone for 2-3 weeks with temps that are too cold for sap to run, to multiple days in a row–unexpectedly, overnight–of dozens of gallons of sap a day, every day, when daytime temps suddenly rise above 40 degrees.)
Why So Much Boiling?
When the temperatures are perfect for causing tension in the trees (below freezing at night and over 40 degrees in the day), the sap flows with passion. We have a few dozen trees tapped this year. On our best day so far this season, our taps presented us with 30 gallons of sap in one day. Once the 30 gallons is boiled down, it equals 3 pint-sized jars of maple syrup. Yep, a 5-gallon bucket of sap equals 1 cup of syrup. Most families would need 10 gallons of sap for just one pancake breakfast!
Needless to say, that means you have to spend a lot of time boiling down the sap to take out the water and create a delicious, sweet, natural, liquid sugar.
What Could Go Wrong?
Sadly, a few weeks ago I made the worst DIY maple syrup blunder of all. I walked away from a boiling pot when it needed my close attention.
You see, for the first many hours of boil, you can just periodically check in on your pan of sap, adding more when appropriate. But when you’re close to having just the right amount of sugar and very little water, well, then you can’t turn your back on it. (Not only does the volume tell you it’s close to time, but the warmer color–instead of the clear liquid you started with–and the amazing smell give it away too.)
This pot is perfection, and the sap is ready to be brought in to the kitchen for the final, careful boil. (More about that in my next post.)–>
This pot is bad. Very bad. The result of me carelessly being sidetracked with animal chores and leaving the pot unattended.–>
Of course, the good side to the required constant boiling and monitoring is that the giant, delicious smelling pot provides a nice place to congregate and talk and, well, of course, often taste the sweet sap to know when it’s ready.
So with all this crazy boiling time and monitoring that is required, not only is DIY maple syrup not for the faint at heart or busy of schedule, but it’s also not for the poor of pocketbook. Our first winter experimenting with DIY maple syrup we spent hundreds on propane. And I think in the end we made about 8 pint jars of syrup.
Needless to say, this year we needed to find a way to save money and use less propane.
The solution cost us a few hundred this year, but has almost paid for itself already.
How Can You Save Money on DIY Maple Syrup?
Our maple syrup operation manager (aka hubby) built a reverse osmosis (RO) filter system that we run our sap through before boiling. The amazing beauty of this system is that it reduces the sap we need to boil to HALF of what we gather from the trees. That means our boiling time is cut in HALF. That means our propane expense is cut in HALF. That means the maple syrup operation bookkeeper (aka me) is very happy.
Everything you need to know to build this awesome money-saving devise is right here. We pretty much followed the directions to a tee, except we saw no need for 4 gauges. Our system has one gauge:
The first bucket is the pure sap, the final bucket (white in this picture) is the filtered sap that we will be boiling into syrup. The middle bucket holds the byproduct of reverse osmosis, the added bonus this operation’s bookkeeper LOVES: the permeate.
Permeate is pure water. Water that has come right out of the ground, through a maple tree. It’s a wonderful tasting, refreshing water that said bookkeeper enjoys drinking when said manager is running the filter system in the evenings.
Bonus: people dish out over $5 a bottle for this stuff! Seriously, a brother/sister duo in Quebec have figured out a way to make a business based on this syrup-making byproduct.
So far in this series, I’ve filled you in on how we choose our trees that we will tap and what supplies we gather in the fall, as well as how we tap our trees and the 7 questions you need to ask before tapping trees, and how we cut our fuel expenses in half with a reverse osmosis filter. My next post in this series will fill you in on the boiling and bottling process. You don’t wanna miss that one! Please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested. You’ll receive a weekly-ish email from me–my e-newsletter, with links to any and all awesomely “sweet” new posts.
In the meantime, if you’d like directions for making your own homemade electrolyte-filled maple drink right now (this awesome drink can be made with maple sap or just plain water), just scroll to the end of this post and sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter in the box you’ll find there. I will immediately send you access to my full resource library, including a recipe for this amazing nutrient-rich maple drink.
DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links.
What Do You Need to Build Your Own RO System?
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While I am enamored with the wonderous idea of sweet syrup coming from simple trees in the woods of my backyard, that’s got nothing on the trees I will someday see in eternity! Listen to THIS:
Through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2
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I hope my focus always encourages you, because simple joys require hard work. Let’s face it, we all need all the encouragement we can get! As soon as you subscribe (in the box at the end of this post), you’ll have immediate access to my Resource Library, which includes many useful printables, including helpful ones related to backyard maple syrup. And, destined to be the most popular item in my Resource Library–A SWEET TASTE–this giant, full-color, 5-chapter, 33-page eBook is my gift to you… a tiny introduction to Sweet Maple, which will be available in print any day now! (Insert crazy lady doing happy dance.)
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— 8 Questions everyone should ask before they tap trees.
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Plus, it’s a wonderful little peek into Sweet Maple. If you enjoy your complimentary copy of A Sweet Taste, you’ll LOVE Sweet Maple.
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