Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Boiling the sap

Today I'm boiling down all the sap we tapped from our trees.  I needed to build a new sap cooking set up because someone *points to Kai and Zander* thought there was a rat living under the old one and completely ripped it apart.

The new set up - it's a little bigger than last year.

So we ran right out and got $20 worth of cinder blocks. Then I dry stacked them to make a sort of fire pit. This morning I went around and got a bunch of firewood from the woods...and I pulled a few good pieces from the firewood pile. Then I built up a big fire. Whoot!

This is such a fun project!

The Bacon Wagon of Doom serves as a filtering station.

Here you can see I'm using the Bacon Wagon of Doom as a staging area for the sap. We went around and poured all the sap from the trees into those big 5 gallon buckets and hauled them up to the house. Then I filtered out the bugs n stuff before putting the sap into my big, totally-OK-with-being-ruined boiling pots.

They are now set on the fire to boil away. When the sap cooks down I'll add more filtered sap to the boiling pots. It's easier for me to filter into a smaller bucket, then add to the pots on the fire.

You can see that I used racks from an old stove at my cooking surface.

To filter the raw sap I just use a big colander lined with cheap, grocery-store quality cheese cloth.

At this point someone always shrieks, "But it is WORTH it!?!?"  Yeah. Yeah it's totally worth it. This is a terrific late winter/early summer project. I'm out there walking around with the chickens, enjoying the sunshine, and I'm picking up all the stick and broken branches that came down over the winter. It's a yard clean up, shake off the winter-mopes workout, make real syrup, extra fun project. So yep it's totally "worth it."

Next the purists will shriek, "BUT YOU CAN ONLY USE HARDWOOD FOR YOUR FIRE! YOU'LL MAKE YOUR SYRUP SMOKEY!" They are extra loud. That's fine. Our reply is to shrug and say, "So?"  That just means that every plate of pancakes takes like they were made over a campfire... if we can even taste the difference. We just aren't that picky.

I'll finish the syrup in the house but that probably won't be until tomorrow.

And if I get my act together I can get a pot of extra smokey baked beans going out there on the fire also. What a great day!

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you got your boil on?


Enigmama said...

My husband cooked down a small batch in our kitchen Monday. It mainly showed me how nasty my range hood was as the evaporation melted all the stuff above away. Yucky walls, great syrup! He was reading this post with me and wanted me to recommend covering your pots with liquid dawn dishsoap before putting them on fire. It helps to remove some of the black

Ohiofarmgirl said...

WOW! Melissa - that is a great tip. Tell your hubs thanks from me! And yeah... i had the yucky walls one time. not the end of the world but outside is definitely more fun.

Anonymous said...

I did mine in the kitchen and it peeled the paint right off the ceiling. Jan

Anonymous said...

Restack your cinder blocks into a "rocket stove" design. You won't have any smoke and you don't need as much wood. But keep an eye on your syrup, liquid cooks down crazy fast on a stove like that. I love mine!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Jan - it's one way to get a new paint job for the kitchen..

Hey Anon, I tried the rocket stove stacking one time (well a couple of times) and I could not get it to work. Do you have a link I could check out? I followed the directions to one that I found but all I got was a very small fire and not a lot of heat.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmDYUrVHPWc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DSv6ePN3oc https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJRN6c1P5ts If you can seal up the seams with dirt or wet clay they work better and won't produce all that smoke. Also add another cinder block on top for a taller chimney/ cook area. Adding a taller chimney produces a hotter fire. Build two side by side for double burner, just knock out the concrete on the long side instead of the short side as demonstrated in the second and third video. Basically you want an L- shaped burn chamber as air tight as possible. Good luck

Ohiofarmgirl said...

THANKS anon! I'll check it out!

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