Here is a story line of photos that will tell the story of how God's provision of the maple tree is utilized into syrup that is not only yummy but good for you as well.
First, you choose the trees that are able to be tapped. Maple trees have a variety of different textures to their bark; it seems like they are like snowflakes being no two exactly alike.
Some trees grow by themselves, and others grow in clumps; such as this one with 6 different trees growing together. Each tree is tapped (rule of thumb is if it is over 6 inches in diameter) and can be tapped more than once IF you can't touch your fingers while hugging the tree. (Yes, we are tree huggers!)
Each tree is drilled into (when you know that you have about six weeks of good sapping weather left of the year), and then a plastic spout is placed in the hole.
This spout is sanitary and attached to a tubed pipeline that runs into the sugar shack during weather that is above freezing. Many put the taps on the south side where the sun will warm the spout so that it will run better.
This is a picture of the releaser. Using a vacuum pump on the pipeline, the sap runs into here.
This is a closeup shot of the sap running into the releaser. From here, it gets dumped into a large stainless steel storage tank. The sugar content at this point is usually 2%.
From this tank, it runs through a reverse osmosis machine, which pulls out about 40% of the water, bringing the sugar content close to 4%. This will also aid by saving some boiling time. The water that is taken out of the sap is saved and used to clean the reverse osmosis machine and the different equipment. After coming out of the reverse osmosis, the sap is then shot into another stainless steel tank.
Looking through the steam- you can see the tubes- the sap is taken from the stainless steel tank through this pipe and into the top of the evaporator.
This is a photo of the evaporator. The sap comes into the evaporator at the top in the back; this area is called a steam away. Much of the steam from the front of the pan is being used in the steam away to start to bring the incoming sap up to temperature. After going through the steam away, the sap drops down into the pan below it in the back, called the flue pans, and then finally makes it's way to the front of the evaporator which is called the finish pan. This is where you see the steam coming up. The sap moves through the evaporator by float systems or by manual valves. This evaporator has a float system, but the floats have a hard time keeping up with how much sap moves through, so we use mainly manual valves.
Here is a shot of the firebox that is front of the evaporator. It is wood fueled and has to be replenished every ten minutes. The evaporator is VERY hot, and will burn you very easily. There is also a blower that is attached to make a hotter fire.
Here is a photo of the sap boiling in the front pan, close to making syrup. Some people can tell from the bubble formation when the syrup is ready..
We test the sap at the end of the finish pan to find out at what temperature it is syrup. The temperature can be different every night- and can vary slightly throughout the same night, so we check with each drawing off of the sap. The sap that we want tested is poured into a hydrometer cup, and a clean and dry hydrometer is placed in to read the sugar content of the hot liquid. This sample above is slightly heavy- meaning a little bit thicker than syrup(because you can see the red line above the liquid- right at the red line is right at syrup consistency and if the red line is below your liquid level you don't have syrup yet).
We then set the automatic draw-off to the temperature reading that we decided that syrup was made at that night. When the temperature of the sap comes to our temperature (which on this night it happened to be 219.3) the valve will automatically open and release the syrup in the finish pan that is at that temp. Each draw is tested to make sure that it is indeed syrup or if the numbers have to be adjusted.
From the bucket that the sap draws off into, this is then poured through a filter press to filter out any impurities so that you have beautifully crystal clear syrup.
The sap is run through the filter press on the right which has several filtering papers into the canner on the left.
The syrup in the canner is kept around 185 degrees and then poured into bottles.
The lids are put on tightly.
The finished bottle is stored upside down for sealing purposes.
Foil is added on the top to make it look more attractive, and is ready for consumption :)
I am so glad that you have listened to my sappy story- it is a very sticky one, and has a lot of labor; however when doing any labor with loving family- it helps us stick together :)