Photo Gallery: How Maple Syrup is Made

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Great on Pancakes, but Do You Know How Maple Syrup is Made?

Making Maple Syrup

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1 | Making Maple Syrup

Gordon Watson checks the clarity of his finished product: 100 percent pure maple syrup, produced by boiling the sap from a sugar maple tree, and filtering it into the finished canning jar. The general rule of thumb is that its takes 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of finished syrup. 

(Craig Watson photo)

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Spile?

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2 | Spile?

Fresh sugar maple tree sap runs from a spile into a catch bucket.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Sap Bucket

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3 | Sap Bucket

Gordon Watson empties a full bucket of sap to be added to the evaporator and turned into maple syrup.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Bucket Checking

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4 | Bucket Checking

Heading out to check on his sap buckets, and replace the full ones.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Sap Flows

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5 | Sap Flows

The catch bucket is set up as the sap begins to flow from the spile. 

(Craig Watson photo)

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Homemade Evaporator

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6 | Homemade Evaporator

Gordon Watson grabs a couple logs to refuel the homemade evaporator system.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Syrup Season

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7 | Syrup Season

Here in Michigan, after months of cold, blustery weather, one thing Lindsey Ruiter looks forward to is the maple syrup season. Here, Lindsey monitors her homemade evaporator system. Fueled by firewood, her system is kept at a consistent boil. The evaporating process is when you keep your maple sap at a constant boil to remove the water, and separate out the sugars. 

(Craig Watson photo)

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Sap Jugs

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8 | Sap Jugs

Buckets and jugs bring the sap to the evaporator.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Emptying Sap

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9 | Emptying Sap

A full bucket of sap is emptied into the evaporator to be boiled down into maple syrup.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Consistency

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10 | Consistency

Gordon Watson checks the consistency of his boiling sugar maple sap. 

(Craig Watson photo)

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Final Product

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11 | Final Product

The final product, as it's been produced for decades and decades.

(Craig Watson photo)

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Perfection

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12 | Perfection

The perfect, finished product. 

(Craig Watson photo)

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Preparation for sugaring season begins in the fall, making sure there is plenty of wood stacked and seasoned near the evaporating area, marking trees, and getting storage containers in place. Sap begins to flow in late March here in Michigan, when daytime temperatures are above freezing, and nighttime temperatures are below freezing. The fluctuation causes the sap to flow up and down the tree.

Sap will spoil, so it has to stay cold. If we have a good, snowy winter, we can use the snow to build an igloo around the storage containers. Sugaring is a full-time job at the peak of the season, sometimes producing several gallons of sap a day per tree, and evaporating the water out of the sap means keeping the fire going as long as daylight allows.

Sap becomes syrup at 219 degrees (217 at our specific elevation and location). It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Every location has its own unique flavor of syrup. Ours tastes like toasted marshmallows. 

(Editor's note: We love maple syrup on our pancakes and waffles, but have you ever wondered how it was made? Click through Craig Watson's photo gallery to see.)

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