The sap flow has been growing stronger over the last few weeks. It is probably not at full flow yet, but we had enough to boil down again today. Last Monday, we boiled down the first of the season. The first one was very experimental ... my engineers hat came out and I bought a new pan and an aluminum grate to put under the two pans. Now, my engineering hat has wires on it ... I am an electrical guy. It does not have gears and such (mechanical). I can typically hold my own, but sometimes ... like last Monday. Aluminum is not the metal of choice to use over a hot fire with nearly 100 lbs (45 kg) of pan and sap on it. Here is the result.
Luckily, I did not lose 20 gallons (76 liters) of sap into my fire. I moved the fire away from the center and continued to boil until I got reasonably far along. Then, I let things cool off and reconfigure the boiling rig.
Of course, I was not terribly satisfied, but it got me through the process until I could bring things inside to finish it off. The problems were two fold. First, as you can see, the rig is only 16 inches (40 cm) tall with the pan hanging down into it. This left about 10 inches (25 cm) of space to feed wood and to build the fire. Clearly, it was too little space. Additionally, I left a space between the pans for a chimney and fed the fire from both ends. It was not ideal. So, I reconfigured the rig before the burn today. I added another layer of blocks and closed off one end leaving a space to act as a chimney. I did use the chimney and a small roasting pan to pre-heat the sap before putting it into the big boiling pans.
When I bought my second pan, I estimated that I could boil off 5 gallons (19 liters) per hour. With the new setup, which incidentally is a mock up of the outdoor kitchen that Wendy has been asking me to build, I was able to boil off an average 6 gallons (22.8 liters) per hour. And, that was with only one pan really boiling well. I estimate the rolling boil was evaporating about 1.5 time the other pan. With that in mind, I think if I can get them both to boil, I can boil down 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of syrup in about 5 hours. Today, the result will be about 3 quarts of syrup in the same 5 hours.
So, our total for the two burns will be just over 6 quarts, or 1.5 gallons (5.7 liters). Oh, the syrup is a lovely dark amber color, not black like last year. I got rid of the cast iron pre-boil pan. It left a funny taste and color. Take note of the maple sugar that has settled on the bottom of the jar. This always happens in our process. I know that I could, if I wanted, let the syrup cool and settle, filter it, re-heat it to just under boiling and then bottle it to eliminate it. But, I like to scoop it out and eat it when the jar is empty.
I look back and laugh at my mistakes over all of these years of experimentation on this MooseBoots path. But, for the most part, the results have been sweet.