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What to do once your pail is full

By now you should have successfully tapped your maple tree and you can see the sweet sap flowing into your secured bucket. You are probably wondering what you are supposed to do now, and what comes next is relatively simple.

Once you have tapped the tree, and if the weather is warm enough, the sap should be flowing fairly quickly which means you should be checking your buckets daily and collecting the sap from the half-full or more buckets.

Once you have one or two full buckets of sap you will need to transport them to storage containers, preferably storage containers near your house or where you plan to boil the sap down so you eliminate the need to transport the sap again once you start boiling.

Collected sap must be stored in food-grade containers. You can use clean plastic milk jugs or juice containers, or five-gallon buckets (food-grade quality). Make sure to clean all the containers using one-part unscented household bleach to 20 parts water. Scrub the containers and triple rinse with hot water to make sure no bleach remains.

Sap is heavier than you may think so if you plan on collecting multiple buckets at a time, bringing the store containers, with lids, down to the trees might be a good idea. That way you can pour the sap straight into the containers, put the lid on and drag them back to the house using a sled or cart.

When pouring the sap into the containers use a cheesecloth to filter out any foreign material such as bark, dirt and twigs that may have fallen into the bucket. If a portion of the sap is frozen throw it away.

It takes 20 to 60 gallons of sap to create one gallon of maple syrup, depending on the sugar content of the sap. This means that you may need to store the collected sap for a bit before you have enough to make maple syrup. Sap should be stored at a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and should be used within seven days of collection and must be boiled in order to eliminate any possible bacteria growth.

If there is still snow on the ground you can store the containers outside in the shade and pack around it with snow, or you can store the sap in your refrigerator. If you are looking for a longer storage time you can keep the containers in your freezer. Sap is similar to milk in that it will spoil quickly if not kept cold.

Now that you have collected the sap and stored it correctly, all you have left to do is boil it down to make delicious maple syrup!

To start the boiling process simply pour the sap into your chosen pot or pan. To prevent scorching always have at least three centimetres of sap in your pot. As the sap becomes more concentrated it will begin to foam and threaten to boil over the top of the pot; to slow this down you can add a drop of vegetable oil or milk to lessen the foam.

Scum is always going to form on the top of the boiling sap. Use your sieve or slotted spoon to skim the scum off of the top.

You will need to boil the sap until it has a sugar content of 66 per cent. At this sugar density, the sap will be boiling four degrees Celsius above the boiling point of water, which is about 100 degrees Celsius.

Now that the sap has boiled down to maple syrup all you need to do is filter it and bottle it. Use orlon or felt for the filter which must be washed with hot water and no soap. The bottles must also be cleaned and rinsed. Boil the maple syrup to a temperature between 82 and 88 Celsius before pouring it into the jars and bottles, which will help sterilize the bottles as you pour the syrup into them.

Congratulations! You have now made your very own maple syrup!

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