Snapshot: Maple Sugaring

My parents are being super adorables.  Inspired by last year’s Starting from Scratch challenge, they got interested in producing maple syrup from their four acre yard in Ohio.  Last fall, they marked the sugar maple trees  and this spring they tapped them!


My Mom has been sending me email updates on their progress and last weekend I went home to Cleveland and toured their taps.  I also got to taste a spoonful of the finished product: it is indescribably unbelievable.  It tastes shockingly different from store bought “real” maple syrup, although we don’t know why.  The flavor is like sweet butter.  Sooo buttery.  Un. Believable.

It won’t be a bumper year for syrup, since they are still learning the ins and outs of production.  But perhaps next year we’ll be selling super-premium FPF brand maple syrup…

Until then, check out photos of their progress below.  Also, the intrepid pioneers at Starting from Scratch are gearing up for another challenge: A culinary endurance match, living only off foods they hunt, farm, fish, and forage.  Follow along here as they spend the next year getting prepared!

Family Friend Mark taps the trees.


Mark hammers in the tap.


Holy Shit Moment: Sap actually comes out of the tree!


The Sugar Bush: Twelve trees tapped in total.

The First Boil: 40 gallons of sap = one gallon of syrup. The syrup was boiled two ways, on an outdoor stove (which yielded a smoky syrup liked by some and not by others) and inside, on the stove top. Todd checks the sap to see how it’s doing.

Results of the first boil: 1/2 cup of golden, high-grade, buttery maple syrup.

4 Responses to “Snapshot: Maple Sugaring”

  • I hammered in my finger with that tap too. Ouch!

  • Dad and I both independently guessed that commercial maple syrup is actually boiled in a way that produces significant carmelization, which would explain the darker color and more candy-like flavor. They could actually test this by intentionally burning a small portion and mixing it back into a slow-boil batch.

    • They do it in wide pans which increase the exposure to heat, as well as boil off the water quicker. This results in lots of Maillard reactions that produce the darker color and “caramelized” flavor. (Maillard is a wet low temp reaction, Caremelization is a dry high temp reaction)

      It’s the same phenomena that needs to be either controlled or exploited when working with the high sugar and protin levels of brewing beer.

      A wide shallow boil pan will cause quite a lot more darkening as well as acellerate the reducton process.

  • Yum! That sounds amazing.

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