Making Maple Syrup

23 March 2016
click on pictures to see enlarged views

I took the above picture this morning. Marlene and I are in our sugar shack, boiling maple sap into syrup. Our sugar shack is actually something like a wood shed, right next to our house. It has a real campy atmosphere to it. Here's a picture of our evaporator in the shed...

We've used the same stainless steel evaporator pan for a lot of years. My friend, Steve Lonsky made it using some stainless steel pieces I salvaged out of a factory back when I was a contractor. 

The firebox is an old one that was given to us a couple years ago. I have it lined with firebrick. It's a step up from the 55-gallon metal drum that we used to use for a firebox.

I have thought about getting a real evaporator to make maple syrup (like This One). But I'm sure we will never get one. It's too high class for us. Here's a picture looking at the sugar shack from outside...

And here (below) is a view looking down on the operation. In the right side of the picture you can see a plastic pail with some sheer curtain material spring-clamped over the top. That's my sap bucket this year. I have used a 55-gallon plastic drum in years past to hold sap. But this year I'm just storing our sap in pails, then pouring them into the pail in the picture, from which the sap trickles slowly into the pan.

That  pail is actually a Whizbang Bucket Irrigation Pail. 

In this next picture you can see the end of the hose, with a brass trickle (of my own design)...

Our first boil netted 6+ quarts of syrup. The picture below shows five of them. This morning we made 2+ quarts. And as I write this, we are boiling another batch. This will be a less productive year for maple syrup than some other years. The reason being, we got a late start, and the sap flow hasn't been all that good.

We've made 5 to 7 gallons of syrup in past years, and one year we made 13 gallons.  We use four or five gallons a year.  

When we had kids at home, boiling maple sap was a family affair. These days it's just Marlene and me. 


Unknown said...

How many trees do you tap?

Herrick Kimball said...

I have 16 taps this year. We have had as many as 30 in past years. 30 taps gave us as much as we could handle with our batch evaporator.

Tucanae Services said...


As far north as you are can you raise sorgum? Same method, just summer stock!

Herrick Kimball said...

I've raised seed sorghum with no problem. Would like to try syrup sorghum someday.

Tracy said...

"When you had kids at home"??? I guess its been a few more years than I thought since I last checked in on your blog (that I have linked to from my blog for years). Where are James and Robert now??

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Tracy—

I started this blog back in 2005. My kids have grown up!

James is now 21. He got married last summer, lives down the road from us a short ways, and owns The Glenside Diner in the small town near us. Robert is now 25 and he got married last summer too. He bought my parent's place three miles from us, and works as a bus mechanic in a local school district.

Thanks for asking.

Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Elizabeth L. Johnson said,
Wow! Beau-ti-ful syrup! Our temps are about in the forties all winter here in northern Cal. I have seen maples around. Do people "tap" in my area?, or in warm places? I sure don't know. Haven't heard about any activity like that here. Seems like a neat family activity.

the Welmers said...

Hey Herrick,

Since I know you enjoy experimenting I was wondering if you have tried modifying your evaporator to work with a rocket stove.

Here is a post where someone set one up

I would enjoy doing something along those lines, but time is always a hard part.

Unknown said...

Jealous...couldn't sugar this the midst of moving. Sigh. Can't wait to be done with this process. Our new property has a large sugar bush and a defunct sugar house that we are hoping to resurrect.
Thanks for sharing and you too are cute as can be!!!

kymber said...

Herrick - not trying to brag but we supported the kids getting the restaurant. we felt it was a good investment in the world - you know - what comes around, goes around! i would also sell all 3 of my cats for your syrup. thank goodness that jambaloney's dad has a sugar bush in quebec and we get ample amounts of the stuff - we love it! based on the beautiful amber colour of your syrup - i am sure it is amazing stuff.

also ordered some clothespins. i think i am customer #2,047. no matter. we can wait for a good quality product. i sent you an email asking about price and shipping. if you can, let me know about number, cost and shipping.

thank you for taking the time to leave comments on our little blog. it means the world to us!

sending much love to everyone at the deliberate agrarian. and loving catching up on all of your older posts - so much to learn from. thank you very much.

your friend,

Herrick Kimball said...

You need below freezing nights and warm days in the spring for the sap to really flow.

The Welmers—
Rocket stoves are neat. I'll check out the link. Yeah, time is a problem. We just can't do everything we would like to. :-(

I'm glad to know you have found another place. I assume it is not far from your current VT location? I hope you can get some maple syrup made next year. Now is the time to get the firewood cut and seasoning for next spring. :-)

Thank you for supporting the Diner Dream! I'm pleased to report that everything is going well with the diner. I have two cats already. They are shop cats and excellent for keeping rodents out of my shop. But they also use my just-planted garden beds as a litter box. The day after I planted my pea seeds I went out to my garden and found one section dug up, with pea seeds scattered about. That was mighty discouraging.

You are on the clothespin waiting list as customer 326 (I sent you an e-mail). Thank you.

If you are catching up on my older blog posts, you have a lot of reading ahead of you! I appreciate your positive feedback, and I enjoy reading your blog.

Your friend likewise,