Making Maple Syrup III: Boiling

Posted on April 7th, 2010 by Tonia 4 Comments

Boiling is my favorite part of the syrup making process.  It is also the most tedious of all the steps.  My dad is the boiling master, but Mike has been slowly aquiring the skills from him over the past couple seasons {we plan to carry on the tradition someday with our own kids.}  The first step is to measure the sugar content of the sap.  This number gives you the approximate time you will need to boil before achieving syrup.  The lower the sugar, the more water you will need to boil off.measure1

The sap is pumped up to the “sap house” {the building that houses the evaporator and all the wood that is needed to fire it} from the underground tank, and is held in a large metal bin.  We slowly pump it from the bin to the evaporator, where it begins to heat up. 

As the sap cooks, it is pushed through the separate compartments of the pan, so that the sap that has been boiling longer doesn’t mix with the new sap that has just entered.  New sap constantly pumps in as the older sap boils down.

The depth of the sap in the evaporator pan is crucial…if it dips too low, the syrup will burn.  My dad uses a stick with notches cut into it to constantly monitor the depth of the sap in the pan.boiling1

The job of the “firer” is to keep the evaporated stoked with wood and at a consistent level of hotness.  It is a coveted job, glorified by our dad so that from the moment we were old enough to swing an axe over our shoulders {at about eight years old, to the horror of our mother} we begged to be chosen as the firer.

{I suspect we were tricked into doing many chores as children by this same method…make the chore into a task of honor and importance, and suddenly you have two little people fighting over who will get to do it.}

We chopped wood into small enough pieces to be fed to the evaporator, and heaved the pieces into the roaring fire.  The heat was delicious against the chilly spring air, which helped us forget the splinters we were inflicting on our little hands.  The maple steam billows from the pan and fills the entire sap house, leaving your face moist and warm.  It’s so thick and delicious smelling, you try to eat it, but it disappears.


The final step of the boiling process is to finish the cooking in the “finishing pan”- a small pan over a little gas stove, where the temperature can be more easily controlled.  The risk of over-cooking the syrup is high at this point, and constant monitoring is needed. 

As soon as it is done, the syrup is poured off into a tall cylinder and then filtered through lambs-cloth, which catches any impurities that rose up during the boiling.


The first taste of syrup is so close at this point…everyone knows it, and starts to hover around. {Stay tuned for the final step in the process: canning & tasting!}


  1. mamamouseiam says:

    I love this syrap making series you are doing! It’s so well written and with such beautiful pictures that I feel like I’m right there with you. Mmmmmmm, I’m starting to hover around…waiting…

  2. Tonia says:

    Thanks Mama Mouse! You were a big help this season. Enjoy your pancakes with your hard earned syrup. 😉

  3. found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  4. […] batch was made in April 2010.  Mike’s mom and dad came and helped us tap, collect, boil, and can.  Mike designed the “logo” for the […]

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