We decided to try cooking our maple sap ourselves this year. This is mainly because our neighbors are not cooking, but we still wanted to tap our own trees and have our own syrup. (No, we aren't planning to sell syrup this year).
It was difficult, however, to figure out just how we would be boiling the sap. Nathan was kicking around a few ideas, and then this showed up:
It's actually a hot water heater belonging to an Amish neighbor. They haven't used it in years, and said we could try boiling sap in it. It's just a stove with a place for a fire in the bottom and a square tank on top for water, or in this case, sap. It does have a spigot there on the side for drawing off the liquid. The problem with this is that the spigot is about an inch above the bottom of the tank inside, so getting the syrup out may prove challenging.
Trifles. Don't bother me with trifles.
Nathan has piles of scrap wood that's been sitting around cluttering up the area around the barn and looking ugly. I am more than overjoyed at the prospect of getting it cleared out, especially so profitably. This, in my opinion, is way better than a bonfire.
The steam is rolling off the sap and our first batch is nearly ready.
It's not quite as sophisticated as a multi-stage evaporator, but it seems to be working. It's really fairly simple and just fine for our small amount of sap. The idea is that we will save our sap in buckets in the basement for a few days, and then cook for one day. That way we're not needing to cook continuously, but can just do it in batches as long as we don't wait too long and let the sap get too old (it starts to break down and get gross after too long).
When the syrup is mostly boiled down, we'll bring it inside to finish on the stove. This should just be a matter of carefully monitoring it for a short time until it's to just the right point. It might be tricky, it might be messy, but we're hoping for the best...
So far, so good.