How to Store and Boil Sap to Make Maple Syrup

Step Two: From Sap to Syrup

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Now that you’ve tapped your maple trees, what’s next?

Some hobbyists take their homemade maple syrup very seriously, using all kinds of gear and equipment in a quest to optimize quality, flavor, and consistency. We took a less scientific approach, and the results were pretty good. Here’s how we went from sap to syrup without a lot of special equipment or expense.

In case you missed it, here's Part One: Collect the Sap

You will need:

  • Food-safe containers for storing gallons of sap. Glass jugs and mason jars work well.
  • Cheesecloth
  • Fire or stove (we used a propane stove)
  • Large pot
  • Large spoon
  • Large candy thermometer
  • Small pot
  • Regular candy thermometer (optional, we used the spoon test)
  • Large spoon
  • Coffee filters
  • Sterile containers for syrup

The Cold Storage Challenge

One of the biggest challenges you will face once the sap starts to run is storage. It takes approximately 10 gallons of sap to produce a quart of syrup. Two FULL 5-gallon buckets of sap for 1 quart of syrup. A 40:1 ratio. How quickly you will harvest sap will depend on your trees and the weather. You’ll need to keep the sap cool (below 38° F) to prevent bacteria from growing and use it within 7 days of collection.

Options for storing sap include:

  • Freezer or refrigerator.
  • A cold garage.
  • A snowbank. Be careful with this method. If the temperature spikes or it’s sunny, your sap can get too warm and spoil.

Sap is like milk. It spoils. Keep it cold (below 38° F).

To save space, reduce the sap.

If the sap starts running strong (usually high temperatures in the upper 40s to low 50s, with lows still below freezing) and you’ve tapped a few trees, then you may get 5 gallons every 2 days, or even each day. To save space, you can do a “partial boil” to reduce the sap. Here's how:

Filter the sap to remove sediment. Cheesecloth works.

Fill a large pot with filtered sap, leaving a couple of inches at the top. Bring gently outside on a propane stove.

Reduce the sap until it is golden yellow and still watery (see above). You'll save a lot of space.

WARNING: Do not boil raw sap indoors or in your outdoor kitchen. ​The steam is sticky, and there will be a lot of it. 

Making the Syrup

Prepare snacks and get comfortable. Chairs, warm clothes, your favorite playlist. Be prepared to hang out and stare at a pot of boiling sap. Making syrup is kind of like sitting around a campfire or ice fishing, you can’t be in a rush.

Fill a large pot about ¼ to ½ full of sap (or sap reduction).

Place the pot on the stove. Bring to a boil; 217° to 218°F. Don’t let it get too hot.

As the sap boils down, add more sap but try to maintain the boil (217° to 218°F). During the boil skim the foam off the surface. The boiling sap will take on a golden color.

Keep an eye on the sap as it boils. Patience is key.

The finishing boil should be done indoors on the stove. This way you have more control over the temperature.

Once the sap has “mostly” boiled down and is starting to darken (but is not yet syrupy) transfer it to a smaller pot and continue to cook on the stove until it turns to syrup.

Watch carefully and control the temperature. Cook until it reaches 219 degrees (or 7 degrees above the boiling point for water, depending on your altitude.)

To check for doneness, dip a spoon into the pot. The syrup should “stick” to the spoon as it runs off. If it comes off in drops, keep cooking. For more information, here's how to know your maple syrup is done.)

If there is still sediment, press the syrup through the coffee filters, changing the filter as needed. Or, allow the syrup to cool overnight in the refrigerator. Most of the sediment will fall to the bottom.

Our finished product with leftover snacks.

Transfer the syrup to sterilized, glass containers and refrigerate. We used Mason jars and sterilized them as if we were making jam. Refrigerated maple syrup typically lasts 6 to 12 months. Visible mold, an off small or an off flavor are signs your maple syrup has gone bad.

You’ll need a minimum of 5 gallons of raw sap to make syrup. If you have less than that, it’s probably not worth the trouble. 

Making Backyard Maple Syrup

Step One: Collect the Sap

Eager for Spring? Making maple syrup in your backyard is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while you're waiting for the snow and ice to melt. Step one: collect the sap.

Step Two: From Sap to Syrup

To turn sap into syrup you'll need space to store lots of sap, a propane stove, time, and some basic equipment.

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