Today is the first major batch attempt at maple syrup! A small amount was made (successfully) the other day by Xtina's dad, and now we're upping the ante: 5 gallons of sap from one tree collected over two and a half days.
Their was barely any color to the sap before boiling started. Sitting in the cooler, you could tell that it was slightly yellow, but it was so light that it's barely significant. Now, after 4.5 hours of boiling, we have this:
You can see that it has darkened significantly, but is still nowhere near the dark amber that we're all used to in our mapley goodness. The flavor is coming along, but there is still some more uncooked sap to add in, and it likely won't change much until the entire sap volume is in the pot. We've lost about 3 gallons worth of water volume so far. I'll update this post as the cooking comes along. Stay tuned, we might need to make pancakes soon. Or waffles. I like waffles more.
UPDATE: The complete volume is in the pot now, we're on the home stretch! It'll probably be a few more hours until it's all done though. The kitchen is starting to smell pretty nice.
UPDATE: The sap has really boiled down a lot, and has darkened a bit more too. You can see how much lower it is in this photo. Take a look.
Okay, so maybe it's not all that much darker, but it's a lot lower in the pot. Sooner or later, it will have to be finished!
UPDATE, (almost) FINAL: Ladies and Gentlemen, Pancakes and Waffles, we have, here tonight, the first batch of maple syrup made from Xtina's generous trees. I present to you:
It's pretty light for maple syrup, but apparently the early season stuff generally is. But that doesn't matter a whole lot to me, I just know that it's DELICIOUS. It's the color of honey, and it tastes like distilled magical unicorn tears.
These photos might not show this detail well enough, but there is still some significant sediment in the syrup despite the cheesecloth filtering. While the cheesecloth did catch a decent amount of stuff (called "sugar sand" i think), there's still a bit floating about and will likely continue to settle overnight.
Overall, this was a really fun experiment, and I think each batch will be better and better. We might experiment with more additives, and possibly other tree syrups. I'll get back with final pictures of the chilled and settled syrup tomorrow.