We put this syrup on our pancakes this morning, and it was delicious!
Two days ago we went on a mini field trip just down the road where a family makes maple syrup. Mr. Cash took us into the building where he makes it, and told us everything (I’m pretty sure), about making it.
First, he takes the maple sap and puts it in the evaporator that has a big fire in it (he burns wood). When the sap goes in, it is 2% sugar. It gets hotter and hotter and more water evaporates and when it is almost syrup, he strains it.
By the way, it really becomes syrup at 219° under normal pressure. But if he could make the air pressure smaller, there would be more empty space, sucking the water into the air, so it would become syrup faster. But when he strains it, it’s not yet syrup. Then he takes it to place where it gets to 219°. The reason for this is because in the evaporator, there is always cooler sap mixing in with the soon-to-be syrup.
Also, the way syrup gets to be light amber, medium amber, dark amber, or Grade B, is the amount of bacteria in the sap. The bacteria like sugar too, and the more they eat, the darker the syrup. But they are all killed at such high temperatures. When it is syrup, so much water has been taken away, (it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup) that it is 66% sugar!
As a side thought, how do you think the American Indians figured out you could make maple syrup? Or maybe they discovered birch syrup first! Yes, you can make syrup from birch sap. It is runnier than maple syrup, and tastes kind of like root beer!
Then Mr. Cash took us for a tractor ride into the woods, where he showed us the three ways he taps trees. The first way is with a bucket. He drills a hole about 1-2 inches into the tree (it has to be at a good distance away from last year’s hole) and puts a spile in the hole. He hangs a bucket underneath it and the sap goes through the spile and falls into the bucket. When the sap comes out of the tree it is clear, and the reason it turns brown is because the sugar caramelizes. It is pretty easy for bugs to get in this way.
In the second way, he also drills a hole and puts in a spile, but this time he uses a bag to catch the sap. He likes this method because if you use clear bags, you can see how full they are from far away. But, they still let bugs in.
The third way keeps out just about all critters. It also uses a smaller hole in the tree, which heals faster than a big one. He takes a tube and runs it from the hole in the tree to a kitty litter box (a new one) with a small hole the size of the tube in the lid. The sap runs down the tube and into the box.
He sells the syrup, so we bought some and we really liked it! Here is a link to mom’s recipe for Sourdough Barley Pancakes.