Making maple syrup takes quite a long time and we're in the middle of a rush of sap, so I haven't had much time to write. Next time you're in the grocery store and wonder why in the world real maple syrup costs so much, here's a breakdown of why (and the sap season is only about 6 weeks long)!
Making Real Maple Syrup
Cut lots and lots of wood for the evaporator
Clear brush and fallen trees from maple lines, check sap lines for damage, install new sap lines (after putting together the spile section at home), wash out sap collection tanks, put sap collection tanks in place. If you're lucky, there's not a couple of feet of snow on the ground while you're doing this.
Clean evaporator and sap making equipment, make sure you have a really good supply of cut wood, check that lines don't leak, make sure collection pump works, make sure Reverse Osmosis machine works. Make sure you have plenty of maple bottles (order more if necessary).
Tap trees (drill hole, tap in spile, repeat 1000 times or more)
Wait and discuss the weather
Pick up sap from collection taps (and sometimes get truck stuck in mud)
Pump sap from the tank in the back of the truck into the sap tanks in the sugar house
Run sap through reverse osmosis machine to take out some of the water and cut boiling time in evaporator
Build a fire in the evaporator and get the sap boiling. Make sure all the sap levels are set correctly so that you don't burn the boiling pans. Make sure all the correct valves are open or closed. Check to see what the boiling point of water is that day and set the automatic draw off for 7-degrees above that.
Wait, feed fire, check to make sure the sap isn't foaming up to run over the sides of the evaporator (it's like cooking candy). This part takes hours.
Finally, when the maple gets to the right temperature you get a flow of syrup. Check to make sure the syrup the correct consistency. If not, you might need to pour it back in and readjust the temperature on the automatic draw off.
Put some diatomaceous earth into hot syrup and run through multi stage filter press to remove impurities and cloudiness. Check to see what grade of syrup you end up with.
Run into bottling unit. Keep hot.
Put into bottles. Put sealing lid on top, lay on sides until bottle cools.
Put proper stickers on bottles with your farm name, address, etc, and the grade of syrup.
You finally have maple syrup you can sell!
There's the list of little things that I didn't add to this list (or forgot about!). The little things that slow you down and perplex you. Things like having to fix the leaks and drips on your hoses or trying to figure our why all the sudden the quick-connect from the back of the truck doesn't fit on the tanks (o-ring fell out).
Now that you know, you can really savor that next dollop of real maple syrup that you pour over your pancakes!