Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Maple Sugaring: Season is Over Before Spring Begins

The remarkably warm end to winter in northeastern North America has shortened the maple sugaring season. Although not a total wash, our yeild seemed pitiful in comparison to previous years. Last year, we processed about eight gallons of syrup. This year, we're probably just a bit over two gallons. (Now, that comparison may not be completely fair. Last year by many accounts was a remarkably generous year. But it's the only other year that we actually measured the quantity of syrup that we got.) Here's a quick tour of this year's operation.

Here is the steamy evaporator full of maple sap. This is the finishing pan from a big commercial operation that works just fine as an evaporator for our small time sugaring.

Here are Abe and Carl, the masterminds behind our maple sugar. The pan (which contains the boiling sap) rests on the arch (where the fire is built to heat it). Carl and Abe are tending the fire in the arch which they built from cinder blocks and rebar. The door is made from scrap metal that they salvaged and welded.

Here is Abe settling the blocks in the arch and filling the seams with sand and bits of fiberglass to keep the smoke out of the sugar house. Notice that here the pan has been lifted out of the way.

Here the buckets are being gathered the old-fashioned way--by hand. We carry the sap in five-gallon buckets to a central barrel.

Sap is stored in the barrel until we've gathered enough to boil. That usually means a full barrel. Handily enough our barrels have a 40 gallon capacity. This makes the math easy because one barrel full of sap will yeild about one gallon of syrup. The ice in the barrel contains no sugar, so we break it and throw it away. The freezing actually helps to concentrate the sap and saves us wood and time.


  1. My family in upstate New York are experiencing the same crazy weather as you have. Over here in Washington state, we have the exact opposite - winter with no end in sight. :\

  2. Michelle,
    Check out this from the Wall Street Journal.