The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

What to do if you overcook maple syrup

Overcooked maple syrup

Let's say that --- just hypothetically --- you put some maple sap on the wood stove before you go to bed, figuring you're going to damp down the stove so it'll just cook partway down before morning.  But you forget to close the air vent, so when you wake up, the sap has turned into maple taffy in the bottom of your pan.  At first, you're thankful that it didn't go further and ruin a perfectly good batch of sap, but then you realize that you're going to lose a lot of the precious sweetness when you scrape it out of the pot.  What are you to do?

Homemade maple syrupMy solution was to pour on another round of sap and warm the mixture over a very gentle fire as the cast-iron wood stove came back up to temperature the next morning.  Soon, the maple taffy allowed itself to be stirred back into the sap, and before long, I had some sap just waiting to be cooked down into syrup.

That was so successful that I took a look at my previous half-cup of maple syrup and saw that it had become more the consistency of honey when I put it in the fridge.  So I cooked my second batch down to a bit runnier of a consistency than you'd usually want, carefully poured the hot syrup into the cold syrup, swirling to mix (and not pouring enough hot at any one time to crack the jar), and I ended up with a cup of perfect-consistency maple syrup.  Success!

For those of you keeping track at home, this cup of maple syrup is the result of about 5 gallons of sap from a 14-inch sugar maple over the course of one week (four heavy flow days and three light flow days).  That means my sugar maple sap has a relatively low sugar content of slightly less than 1%, although possibly my freeze concentration method loses more sugar than others suggest.  What I probably should do next is boil down a gallon without freezing first to get a more solid estimate on sugar content of the sap.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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