Lessons learned so far on Tennessee maple syrup production
1) The theory is one thing. The actual production of the sap which I boil down into syrup is another thing.
2) The taps (times two) do work, but the output varies by day and tap. Some days are much better than other days, but the “hard” maple tree (a now old orchard tree from an earlier time) does still live, and also still makes maple sap. It just takes time and checking daily. Plus old maple trees make nifty knurled wood, like for gunstocks, too.
3) Mostly, and to me, a “hard” maple tree and a “soft maple” tree have different kinds of bark. Mostly a “hard” maple tree has rough bark, while a “soft” maple tree has smoother bark. To identify such trees is also easier during the warm season when the leaves are on the trees.
4) I fell asleep (call it a senior nap) and burned the final boil off of maple sap into a burning and smoking and baked on goo in a stainless steel cook pot. The initial work with an aluminum pot was on the outside porch, but the final burning was in my kitchen. It was hard pack and cooked on goo. It took three days of soaking in hot water with some soap to clean it out, but it did come out. So that part pleased me.
5) I thought the boil off of sap into syrup (40:1) would take an hour or two. Now I would plan on a half day as a better planning factor. I was using a turkey fryer, so more BTU’s would probably help me, but I took what I had to deal with (I am not sure of the BTU info). I got the turkey fryer at Amazon months ago, by the way.
6) I used propane gas for my heat, but I also have a wood smoker I can use if I have to. In that case I just use local wood, or could also use locally mined anthracite coal, too.
7) So I am back it again. There was maple sap at the tree yesterday, too. Like one tap dripped some sap into a bucket I had hanging there. The other tap and bucket had zero production, though it has worked in the past week.
8) The theory suggests the sap has about 2% sugar and maple flavor in it.
9) If I want sugar, the Hemlocks also has alternatives. One is to use the honey bee hive that made it through CCD (colony collapse disease). Two is to grow more sugar beets and go from there.
10) One old caretaker said it best. He was from Hanging Limb, and said something like if you can’t make it, then you just go without.
11) The location is in east Tennessee on the Cumberland Plateau.
12) Legend has it that the local and more “modern” Indians circa 1500 A.D. would even boil the sap down to 20:1 and drink it as a health drink.
13) Boiling does kill the germs and viruses, so that is always worth considering.
14) Store bought maple syrup tends to be clearer than what I would make at the Hemlocks. So if you want clear syrup, use some kind of filter to help the effort, like use a T-Shirt or fine grade cheese cloth.
15) There are two kinds of Hemlocks. One is what we have here (a tree and by some called spruce). The other is a Hemlock vine which helps in euthanasia, and is of no interest to me. Never-the-less, a savvy person should recognize this, especially when using it for a gift. I don’t know anyone who wants their friends thinking this Tennessee maple syrup gift will kill them in the end. So the labels I made say something like “Cumberland Plateau” maple syrup, and not something like “Hemlocks” maple syrup. That’s why.