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New Record Set For Our Modest Maple Syrup Operation!!! :D

 
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Greetings friends! :)

On this fine Saturday evening, I am so happy and proud of our little farm. A couple days ago, we produced a record-breaking MONSTER BATCH of maple syrup... 36 CUPS in one go!!! That's 9 LITERS or 2.4 US GALLONS! :O



For those of you on the forums that don't know us, that may not seem like a lot of syrup, especially if you're an avid maple syrup crafter with all the latest gadgets and gizmos. But we do all this stuff the old fashioned way, with buckets, taps, lids and lots of elbow grease, no evaporator, and as close to how the pioneers did things as possible. Some of our techniques were also developed by the indigenous peoples of Canada. For more on this, check out our first episode of "Great Canadian Adventures" below, where I explain the origins of maple syrup and how it came to be what it is today.


Our setup consists of 3 custom-made stainless steel pans which vary in size, set atop an elongated wood stove, within a small log cabin sugar shack. We don't have the convenience of a snowmobile or gravity-fed tubes. We pick all our sap up on foot with food-grade 5 gallon pails. We'll often use a sled we made to hold the pails or simply shlep then down the trails, sometimes using an old-school contraption my grandfather made, that's made of hooks, rope and wood that sits on top of your shoulders. With this contraption, we can carry an extra 2 pails, but it's hell on your back and neck. Normally we'll just take our time and collect over the course of the day and we don't let the sap pile up for more than a day or two.

We have about 40 maple trees now, some sugar maples, some silver maples and other types, but I'm not so good at identifying them yet. Without revealing too much about our secret formula, I will say that having a mix of different maple sap really adds a unique flavor to your syrup. ;) As far as how many buckets we have, for the small trees, we only tap them once. For the medium sized trees, we'll tap them twice. For larger trees, we'll tap them 3 times. And for very large trees, which we only have 2 or 3 of, we'll tap them 4 times, but no more than that. Having 4 buckets is already hard enough on the tree that I don't like to go above that. Even for VERY big and VERY old trees that could probably produce more, I don't take any chances with the health of my trees. My maple syrup mottos have always been "take only what you need" and "take care of your trees and they'll take care of you" and I stand by that to this day. We're also in the process of phasing out all of our metallic taps and buckets and moving to food grade plastic. The equipment lasts longer, stays cleaner and the smaller taps are much easier on the trees.

So anyway, this MONSTER BATCH was the result of some 11 or so 5 gallon pails collected over 2 days. So to put that into perspective, approximately 55 US gallons of sap turned into 2.4 US gallons of syrup over the span of 12-14 hours of boiling. Per my calculations, that's a ratio of 23:1 (sap:syrup). That seems very low because the ratio is usually closer 40:1 or 50:1. So either my calculations are off, or the sap is VERY sweet this year. In any case, it sure hasn't taken any less time to boil off all the water. Another thing to note is that for the past 2 years, we've really been paying closer attention to the sugar content of our syrup. We use a hydrometer on every batch now and ensure that our syrup reaches exactly 66 brix, no more, no less.

Here's the Facebook post if you want to get in on the conversation and follow us there:
https://www.facebook.com/MGPDream/photos/a.196181517883457/649198585915079/?type=3&theater

Also, if you want to watch me craft a batch of artisanal maple syrup from beginning to end, in 4K UHD, without any talking, just the ambient sounds of the cabin, check out the "MAPLE SYRUP Production - The COMPLETE Process (in 4K UHD) [No Talking]" video below.


And finally, if anyone out there in Permies-land is crafting maple syrup this year, drop me a line and let me know how it's going! I'd love to connect with other crafters and compare notes. I'm sure other crafters would too, so maybe we can get some conversations going. Please share with us how your season is going, as well as where you're located, how the weather has been, how the maple sap is flowing this year. I would gladly welcome any tips and tricks too! So you old timers out there who've been crafting syrup for decades, I want to hear from you too! :) I took over this farm and maple syrup operation from my 87 year-old Grand-Father who has been making syrup since he was a boy. After 30 years on this farm, we bought it from him and have been doing wonderful things here with permaculture, homesteading, continuing traditions and keeping his legacy alive.

Best of luck this year to all you maple syrup crafters out there! For everyone else, if you happen to be in the Eastern Ontario region from now until roughly mid-April and you want to see what this stuff is all about, let me know and we'll try to set something up!

Cheers,

Matt LΓ©ger, Executive Producer
Maple Grove Productions

Edit: I figured out why our ratio was so off. There were an additional 4 pails worth of sap in the pans before we even began. So it was actually: 15 pails x 5 gallons each = 75 US gallons of sap that turned into 2.4 US gallons of syrup. That's a ratio of roughly 32:1 (sap:syrup). Closer to the average 40:1 one ratio but still on the low side, so it must in fact be very sweet sap after all.
 
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Hi Matt,
Rick and Rose here, we live in East Central Minnesota on a hundred acres of mixed Forest.
We live in a small non electric log cabin and do our maple syruping pretty much the way you guys do.
We usually tap about 40 or 50 trees. We use number 10 cans with wire bails that we made for collecting the sap at the trees. For spiles I take small Maple branches(about an inch diameter) that have bumps on them as bail hooks and cut them into 5 inch spiles.
I drill a quarter inch hole in each spile, put a bevel on the front bottom for the drips to collect on and use a tool called a hollow auger for putting 1/2 inch spuds on the end that goes into the tree.
We use an antique 6 in brace for drilling the holes.
We also use food grade 5 gallon pails for carrying the sap from the trees to the cabin, however I use a hand-carved shoulder yoke made out of Aspen for carrying the pails this is fairly comfortable probably compared to the Rope type setup your using.. Like you folks we try to keep it simple and traditional.
We boil our sap on an antique wood fired kitchen range. We usually produce 7 to 12 gallons of syrup for our personal use. We've just been using candy thermometers and for our elevation we let the syrup get to 217 degrees and then hot pack the syrup into hot jars. The jars usually seal in a few hours and after 10 years of doing this we haven't had any go bad although we do tend to get some interesting large crystals at the bottom of some jars, which is okay because the crystals like I said are interesting and can also be eaten as hard candy..
Just last evening we jarred 11 pints from about 48 gallons of sap which is just about 35 to 1. Hi
That's about all for now our sap season has just started..
R&R
 
Matt Leger
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Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Rick and Rose! It's so nice to hear from other old school maple syrup crafters like us. I love your approach with the spiles, bevel and auger/spuds. I would very much like to try to set something up like that on a few trees, if for no other reason than it just looks really cool and serves as a great example of a traditional application. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? New doesn't always mean better. The traditional methods that we're using have been used far longer than the new, techy ways.

As far as your production goes, that is nothing to sneeze at! With the amount of trees you have, I imagine our seasonal output is very similar. It looks as though we're going to have a record season this year and with this COVID-19 outbreak, that suits us just fine. More time spent at home means less risk to our family. We're basically on lock-down right now and avoiding all public areas when at all possible.

But anyway, do you have any pics or videos out on the web to look at? I'd be very interested in seeing what you guys have set up there and taking notes.

Wishing you a happy and productive maple sugaring season!

Edit: Blasted typos! Getting worse with age lol.
 
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that is impressive, 9L of syrup.. hmm that would last us 18 years!
 
Matt Leger
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Rick Rayburn wrote:we do tend to get some interesting large crystals at the bottom of some jars, which is okay because the crystals like I said are interesting and can also be eaten as hard candy



I forgot to comment on this. We have that issue as well, if you want to call it an issue. It's more of a sweet surprise. :) From what I gather, this is the result of our syrup being too high in sugar. After a while, the sugar crystallizes, even if you put it in the freezer. There's nothing wrong with it and yes you can eat it. We actually use it to make maple sugar and use that as a substitute for white/brown sugar in various recipes. Works great and has 2/3 the sugar of sugar, if that makes any sense lol. Plus it has vitamins and minerals so it's superior to white sugar imo. These days though we try our best to nail the 66 brix (the Canadian standard) dead on so we keep as much volume as possible. If we want maple sugar, we'll just boil up a few mason jars until it becomes sugar, which is a very tricky process. Might be better to just let the crystals form naturally.

Skandi Rogers wrote:that is impressive, 9L of syrup.. hmm that would last us 18 years!



Seems like a lot right? But this will just barely feed my friends and family for a year. But in all fairness, I do have a big family and they all seem to have an endless hunger for syrup haha.
 
Matt Leger
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Skandi Rogers wrote:that is impressive, 9L of syrup.. hmm that would last us 18 years!



Matt Leger wrote:Seems like a lot right? But this will just barely feed my friends and family for a year. But in all fairness, I do have a big family and they all seem to have an endless hunger for syrup haha.



It occurred to me that I should probably clarify this statement. My friends and family consume much more than this 9 L batch. We produce an average of 170-200 cups per season, that's 42.5-50 L per season. By the time the next maple season rolls around, we only have a few jars left, if that. So hopefully that puts their hunger for syrup into perspective! lol

I'm all too happy to share though. What's the point of having a delicious treat if you can't share it with your loved ones, right? :)
 
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I am interested in this
 
Matt Leger
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John C Daley wrote:I am interested in this

Do it! It's really not that difficult, trust me. Now is the good time to take up a hobby and experiment a little. :)
 
Rick Rayburn
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Hi Matt and all,
Matt if I new how to put pictures on this post I would, but I don't.
Thought I'd update you since our last conversation. We're now over 4 gallons of syrup.
Our trees have been running slow all week due to the weather, however next week looks to be in the mid-40s during the day and just below freezing every night. Should be quite a busy week in the Sugarbush!
I also thought you all might be interested in a book called The Maple Sugar Book by Helen and Scott Nearing. It has a lot of very interesting history regarding Maple sugaring and also explains all aspects of The Craft from tapping to Boiling down and even marketing the product if one so chooses. Helen and Scott were pioneers in homesteading and have several very good books on the subject.
Till next time.....
 
Matt Leger
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Rick Rayburn wrote:Hi Matt and all,
Matt if I new how to put pictures on this post I would, but I don't.
Thought I'd update you since our last conversation. We're now over 4 gallons of syrup.
Our trees have been running slow all week due to the weather, however next week looks to be in the mid-40s during the day and just below freezing every night. Should be quite a busy week in the Sugarbush!
I also thought you all might be interested in a book called The Maple Sugar Book by Helen and Scott Nearing. It has a lot of very interesting history regarding Maple sugaring and also explains all aspects of The Craft from tapping to Boiling down and even marketing the product if one so chooses. Helen and Scott were pioneers in homesteading and have several very good books on the subject.
Till next time.....



Hi Rick and Rose!

Thanks for checking in and sharing those updates! So nice to hear from you and that you have been having a productive sugaring season. That's awesome! We had a record year as predicted. I have yet to do a final count but we are somewhere around 11 US Gallons, well over 200 CA cups (250 ml each). The season was officially done on Friday though. The temperatures are too high during the day and it's not freezing at night anymore. Plus someone saw a butterfly the other day which usually marks the end of the season. Before my kids and I went to pull the taps and buckets, the sap was turning cloudy and yellow so it was time to wrap it up. And not a moment too soon either! By the end of the season, it goes from being a nice hobby to an unpleasant chore after the novelty wears off. If I could focus exclusively on the syrup crafting, it would be fine and I would love it but having to balance it with work, raising a family, writing a book and everything else going on in the world, it's just too much.

I appreciate the book recommendation. I added it to my Wish List and will definitely be picking it up before next season. I was just about to post another couple things in this thread before wrapping it up this season.

Take care and be safe out there!

Matt & Family, Maple Grove Farm
 
Matt Leger
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2020 MAPLE SYRUP SEASON UPDATES
Maple Grove Farm

Just when we thought we couldn't top ourselves at 36 cups, we cooked up this GARGANTUAN 43 CUP batch the other day!!! 🀯🍁

As you'll notice, the syrup has taken on a darker color. This is completely normal and the result of many factors, including residual sugar accumulation in the pans, rain water running off the bark into the buckets and even compositional changes in the sap itself as the trees adjust to the warmer temperatures. A lot of people prefer the darker colored syrup as it has bolder and more complex flavors. It sure is great to cook with!

I can't take much credit for this one. Ang did most of the boiling and bottling. Well done, dear! β™₯️



We recently took a stab at Live Streaming. This was not a possibility until recently. But now that I'm able to combine two different ISP's together, Live Streaming has become viable again! Wi-Fi surprisingly worked better than my cell data, even with 2 more kids on the network than usual, so there's hope of doing this again in the future... and dare I say, maybe even regularly! :)

Live Stream #1

Live Stream #2

And finally, here is our first of a three part segment on 'Maple Syrup Tips & Tricks'. From amateur to expert, there's a little something in here for everyone. And if you're thinking about taking up the hobby, this is a good starting point, in addition to our plethora of other maple syrup videos.

If you have any questions or additional tips to share with the community, please drop those in the comments. Thanks for watching, my friends! Stay safe and healthy out there. 🍁🧑

 
Matt Leger
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The second video in our "Maple Syrup Tips & Tricks" vlog series. In this one I talk about how I've made a significant observation. Sap color seems to directly affect the final syrup's quality. Watch this quick video to find out more...

 
Matt Leger
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This is the complimentary video that matches the picture I posted recently of our second largest batch of the season. I would have posted it sooner but it only came out today. Enjoy! And HAPPY EASTER!!! ✝️πŸ₯šπŸ°

 
Matt Leger
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This is the final video in our 'Maple Syrup Tips & Tricks' VLOG series. This also marks the end of the maple syrup season and thus all maple syrup videos for 2020. On to greener pastures. Bring on the growing season! 🌳

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