By Richard DeVries
Wednesday was a good day. The sap was running nicely on the south side of the hill. The sun had warmed up the trees enough by mid morning for the sap to start dripping. We had a nice trickle of sap running into the storage tank from the trees connected to the tubing.
Not the perfect sap run just yet but even the smallest trickle will fill up the tank, eventually. The tubing on the north side was frozen most of the morning. By mid afternoon the sap was coming in nicely, but still not what you would expect from over a hundred trees on a vacuum system.
At noon I started up the evaporator, the big cooker in the sugar house. We had some trouble with the float-box the last time we were cooking. The float-box is a valve that controls the sap level in the pans. As the steam goes out the roof, the float-box automatically lets more sap in to keep a constant level of sap in the pans. I wanted to make sure it was working right before the open house next Saturday. I made some adjustments and fired it up.
I kept a close eye on the thermometer and on the sap level in the syrup pan. A little bit of tweaking on the float-box and everything looked good. The thermometer needle was creeping closer to the red mark at 7, telling me we were getting close to syrup. The boiling temperature of syrup is 7 degrees over the boiling temperature of water.
I checked the first syrup with a hydrometer, it was a little thin so I let it cook a little longer. I took a couple more samples till the hydrometer told me that the syrup was the correct density. The sugar in the syrup increases the ‘floatability’ and makes the hydrometer float at the right depth.
A gallon of syrup came trickling out and then the flow of syrup slowed down. The flow of syrup shouldn’t slow down unless I close the valve. After a quick peek in the pan I shut down the system. The sap level was too low and I got really close to burning the first syrup of the season.
It was more luck than expertise that saved the day. The first syrup tastes great but the float-box needs some more tweaking.
Join us for demonstrations in tapping trees, cooking syrup and making candy this Saturday April 5 from noon to 4. Try sweet samples of Maple sap and sweeter samples of Maple candy.