Once piped from our basement, the condensed sap goes into the sap house, where our evaporator lives.
The Sap House
The sap house is a large shed in our backyard that stores most of the maple equipment. It’s also where my dad spends many spring hours boiling sap. During the season it’s very hot and humid and smells like syrup.
The sap house holds the storage tank (which is at the top of what appears to be a large bunk bed) and most of the bottling equipment, in addition to various mapley odds and ends. The most important sap house feature is the evaporator, though.
The evaporator is a big boiler with a maze in it that sends the sap through different sections as it boils, and by the time it’s thick enough to be syrup, it’s at the end by the valve to get drawn off.
The evaporator has a hood that fits tightly over most of the boiler maze. The hood funnels all the steam up and out through a smokestack so the steam doesn’t become overwhelming and rot the wooden sap house. While the hood hides most of the view inside the evaporator, there’s a little trap door you can peek through to see all the bubbling in the maze.
At the end of the maze, the syrup is thick and golden. It has a tendency to boil up and over like a covered pot on a stove. When the bubbles get too high, we sprinkle fairy dust on it and the bubbles and foam disappear. It’s dried vegetable oil, actually, but it seems pretty magical. In the past, people used butter or cream to accomplish the same thing.
The finished syrup collects on the side of the evaporator near a valve. We use a hydrometer, which measures the density of the syrup, to tell when it’s ready to draw off. It collects in a bucket, then goes to be canned.
More on that next week!