Last year's maple season lasted about one week. Since we were about 7 days late in tapping our neighbor's tree, that meant that we got bupkiss. The small amount of sap, maybe only a cup or two, would not boil down to anything worthwhile. This year, however, we had a long (one could argue that it was too long) sap collecting season. It came later this year than it did last year. Last year it was done by the middle of March. This year, we didn't even start tapping until April, and were able to collect over a period of three weeks. There were days in there that I would collect 4 or 5 gallons of sap! While this is not much for those who have a grove of maples (or like my mother, who taps about 20 or 25), it was a lot for one tree. The trees we tapped last year at our neighbor's home did not provide more than a gallon or two over more than a week. The tree at Jaimie's parents' home produced more than 5 gallons, but we only left the tap in for a week. The tree in back, which had two taps for more than 2 weeks, was the performer.
After boiling it for days and days (okay, hours and hours over the course of a couple of weeks), adding more sap to the boil whenever we got down to about half a pot, we got just under half a gallon of the most delicious syrup we've ever tasted!
There were a couple of mishaps along the way, of course. For instance, we tried using a rocket stove at first, but never managed to get a boil.
Next, we tried a charcoal fire, based on the idea that charcoal burns hotter than wood (otherwise, why would blacksmiths use it?). Needless to say, this didn't work.
Ultimately, we bought a turkey fryer setup on e-Bay, and Jaimie melted the bottom of the aluminum stock pot that came with it. Still, the burner worked great with our large canner.
In fact, it may have worked better due to the fact that it is shorter but wider, so their was more surface area to boil (more surface area=faster reduction).
This morning, we had maple french toast with our own, homemade syrup. Yummy! We can't wait to see how the rest of the sap works out. Oh, did we mention that we still have about ten gallons of sap? We don't want to boil it down for one more pint or so of syrup, so we're going to ferment it and see if it's any good. Hey, stranger things have turned out well.