Cooking Sap into Pure Maple Syrup
Now that I’ve shared my maple tapping and evaporation process, I’ll share how I cook down and finish the sap into pure maple syrup!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 Smaller pan (a stew pot, one that will fit on your stove. One pot for boiling down your final syrup. The other for filtering the finished syrup).
- Granite-Ware Water Canning Pot (If your going to store your syrup in regular canning jars).
- Liquid Syrup Defoamer ( defoamer is a vegetable blend of oils made for the purpose of making syrup. it helps to break the foam you get from boiling the syrup. I don’t personally use it, but you may wish to. You can also use safflower or sunflower oil up to 1/4 teaspoon).
- A Syrup Hydrometer ( is different from a sap hydrometer).
- A Hydrometer Cup
- Orlon Filter and Paper Filters (The paper filter will fit inside the bottom of the Orlon wool-like filter. It’s a good idea to have at least 2 Orlon filters and several paper filters on hand).
- Maple Syrup Cone Stand (I personally don’t have a cone stand. I usually just hang my filter from a rack above my stove. But I would recommend getting one, it will make straining your syrup much easier).
- Bottles or jars and lid’s ( I prefer glass over plastic for storing my maple syrup in).
- Canning Funnel
- Large stirring spoons
- White Vinegar (for wiping the rimes of your jars down, so you get a good seal).
- Paper Towel
- Kitchen Hand Towels
- Kitchen Wash Cloths (For wiping the rim of your jars after funneling in your syrup).
Now that you’ve got all your supplies together let’s start the syrup process.
After purchasing your Orlon wool like syrup filter (the one on the left in the upper photo), you’ll need to gently boil it for a few minutes, before using it. This cleans and sanitizes it. Never ever use soap or any other cleaner to clean the filters, because you’ll risk having soap in your syrup. After filtering your syrup, turn it inside out. Rinse it really well and gently boil it to clean it. Do not twist or ring out the Orlon filter. This will help it to last longer. Hang it up to dry somewhere safe. The Paper filter (on the right) can be gently boiled as well.
Once you have gently boiled your Orlon and rinsed the paper filter, set them aside, and drain out all the excess water. You want them to be damp so the syrup can flow through easily, but not dripping wet or your syrup will be runny when jarring it. If you have ever canned, set your work flow up in that manner. If not, here’s what I do. I prefer to use canning jars for my final syrup ( any size canning jars, depends on what size you want your syrup in. Mine can be half pints all the way up to quarts).
Place the size of jars you want in your Granite-Ware Water Canning Pot. Then fill it with enough water to cover the jars, and put the pot on your stove. Turn your burner on medium heat to warm up your water. I also add in my canning jar flat top lids to warm them up as well. This way I know they will seal the syrup jars. Just make sure the lids aren’t on top of the jars, so they don’t accidentally seal the jar.
Have your ladles, spoons, paper towels, kitchen towels and vinegar all set and ready for use. Now is the time to go outside and bring in your evaporated sap and pour it into a stock pot.
As soon as you transfer your sap, turn your burner on medium to re-heat it. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. If you have the defoamer you can add a drop or two to re-move the foam. Some folks use a 1/4 of teaspoon of Canola oil.
While your sap is warming up, get out your Syrup Hydrometer and Hydrometer Cup. It’s important to use these two tools because they will tell you when your sap has become syrup. Other wise your syrup may end up way to thick, over cooked, or to thin.
The sap hydrometer uses either the Brix or Baum scale. Both of these are used to determine the density of maple syrup. The Brix scale is most commonly used today and the one I use. You will know when your sap has reached it’s syrup stage when it reads 66-67 Brix, you should remove the syrup from the heat. When handling your syrup hydrometer be very careful, it is a fragile glass instrument. It’s usually a good idea to keep an extra on hand in case one breaks or if the paper scale inside of it slides down. You don’t want to risk false readings or breakage in the middle of your syrup making.
Now that your sap has begun to slowly boil. Hold your hydrometer cup over the top of your sap pot and carefully ladle in enough sap to almost reaching the top. Place your hydrometer cup on a flat surface. Now gently lower your glass syrup hydrometer in to your cup. Don’t drop it in or you risk breaking the glass. Gently set it in and see if it sinks and stays at the bottom or if it floats.
How to read your syrup hydrometer:
- Hot Test Red Line is sunk to the bottom of your syrup. The syrup is too thin, and you need to continue to boil.
- Hot Test Red Line is even with the syrup’s surface. The syrup is finished and you can now remove it from the heat.
- Hot Red Test Line floats above the syrup’s surface. This means your syrup is too heavy. You’ll have to add a small amount of sap to your syrup in the pot to thin out your syrup. Pour your syrup in your hydrometer cup back into your pot with the newly added sap. Then do a re-test. Until the red line is equal with the level of your syrup.
Once your hot test line is equal with your syrup level, you now have pure maple syrup. Go ahead and pour your syrup that’s in your hydrometer cup back into your pot. Then, remove your pot from the heat. It’s now time to pour your syrup through the Orlon. The maple syrup needs to be 180 degrees F (82 degrees C ) to run through the filter.
I do not have a maple syrup cone stand to hold my Orlon filter, so I just hang it from my pot rack above my stove with an Instant pot liner below, catching the strained syrup. The reason why you want to strain your syrup before bottling is to remove any sugar sand or other particles. What is sugar sand, it’s the minerals from boiling the sap. It won’t hurt you if you eat it, in fact many keep the sugar sand to eat it.
When the syrup has finished filtering I gently squeeze the rest of the syrup out of the Orlon. Remember not to force press, twist or wring the filter. Because it will damage the wool like material. Place your filters in the sink right away after filtering your syrup, and give it a good rinsing. Never use soap to clean your filters. Only a good soaking and boiling.
On to the bottling. There are different ways you can bottle your syrup.
- Canning jars
- Plastic containers
- Glass containers in different sizes and shapes
As you can see I like to use my canning jars. Mostly for convenience, I’m a big canner so I always have empty jars on hand. If I were to go into selling my syrup, then I would purchase the specialty glass containers. I also use a canning jar funnel when ladling in my hot syrup.
I sterilize my jars and lids in my Granite-Ware Water Bath pot as an extra precaution. This also insures my lids will seal properly. When your ready to fill your jars, make sure your syrup is 180 degrees. You may have to re-heat it after you’ve filtered it. After filling your jars, wipe down your jar rims with a kitchen dishcloth. Then, wipe them again with a little white vinegar. This gets off any sticky residue and helps the lids to seal better. Place your rings on after the lids, then gently cover your jars with a couple of towels. Since you don’t water bath or pressure can your canned syrup, the covered jars keep the heat in and helps seal the lids. Leave them sit over night undisturbed. The next day when they have cooled down you can label them and store them in a cool dry place.
When syrup is cooked and bottled properly at 66 to 67 Brix, it can be stored unopened for years. Once a bottle is opened it needs to be stored in the refrigerator to prevent mold from growing.
There are many ways to use your pure maple syrup, besides pancakes. There’s maple syrup pie, or put it in your tea or coffee. I even use it in my homemade soaps! Don’t forget you can also make maple cream, sugar and candies. So there’s so much more you can use that wonderful gift that came from your own land, and it’s so rewarding.