Over the last few months we’ve been moving around lots of tanks. Our home property was limited last year by storage, three 4,000 gallon tanks and our 4,200 gallon/hour RO couldn’t keep up with our NASCAR sap truck driver while our woods were also pouring sap into them. We also had some plastic overflow tanks on the other properties, those are gone now as we much prefer stainless tanks. This year we now have two 8,500 gallon tanks at our house and seven 4,000 gallon plus two 3,000 gallon tanks out in our woods. That’s 54,000 gallons of sap storage! We also connected them at the top with overflows instead of at the bottom where the valves are located, now we can clean one while simultaneously collecting in the other. Next up is to re-attach filter manifolds and build a catwalk on our home tanks so we can pressure wash them easier, we’ll save that until after the taps are in early next month.
Our addition is finally complete! We had been waiting on the garage door, which was installed last Thursday. H.W. Means Electric put the finishing touches on all of the plumbing and electric Monday afternoon. We’re still assembling shelves/tables and tweaking the floor plan but everything candy, cream, and sugar related is now functioning. Next up is to connect the roughed in plumbing to the sap tanks, chiller, and reverse osmosis so that we can make some syrup next month!
Over the weekend I participated in a Christmas cookie exchange with some friends. It’s a fun tradition that my friend Katie has been organizing and hosting for the past 6 years and it’s always a good time! I usually feel the need to include one (or more) of our maple products in the recipe I decide to make, and this year was no exception. Instead of a cookie recipe, though, I thought I’d try something new – maple brittle! I had never made it before and was a bit nervous. The original recipe I tried did not turn out as it should have, so I did some research and looked at several other recipes before coming up with my own, which I will share below. The second attempt was much better, and pretty delicious if I do say so myself. (My friends at the exchange agreed, and some of our NMS family taste tested as well!)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 C real maple syrup
1/4 C water
1 stick unsalted butter
1 C toasted pecans
1/2 t baking soda
- Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat and set aside.
- Mix first four ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot/pan (I used cast iron) over medium heat until melted/combined. Put a candy thermometer in it and let it boil. Once it boils, do not stir (it will cause the sugar to crystallize and the mixture to thicken too soon, making it likely to burn).
- Let come to 300 F (about 15-20 minutes). Take off heat, and immediately stir in toasted pecans and baking soda before pouring it onto your prepared cookie sheet. Try to spread it out with a silicone spatula, or cover with another piece of parchment paper and use a rolling pin. Sprinkle coarse salt across the top and let it cool.
- Once it has cooled and hardened, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
A record day for candy, we sent out around 100 pounds of it this morning! Mondays are always our busiest days due to weekend shopping and no Sunday USPS pickup. If this year is anything like 2018 this will be our busiest week. Hurry up and get your Christmas orders in before it’s too late!
In order to make higher quality candy we’ve started vacuum cooling our syrup. Churning candy at a lower temperature results in smaller/smoother crystals and a better melt in your mouth texture. We made a video showing the process. Our recipe is still a work in progress but once perfected it should also eliminate any cosmetic white spots on the candy.
One of our biggest improvements for the 2020 season will be cooling our sap concentrate. Because sap has a very short shelf life of 1-3 days max, it must be processed immediately. This season we’ll still send the sap through the reverse osmosis immediately, but then we’ll cool it for long term storage. Once the sap is concentrated to ~20% sugar it’s freezing point drops to ~26°F. Using this glycol chiller, we’ll cool it to just above freezing where it can last for weeks. At this low temperature there is almost no microbial activity. This will allow us to boil once a week instead of once a day, at the time of our choosing. It will also produce higher quality syrup since the sap won’t have to sit around at higher temperatures letting bacteria degrade it. One of our rooms in the new addition is specifically for cold storage, it will hold this 3000 gallon concentrate tank along with barrels of syrup in the hot summer months. 3000 gallons of 20% concentrate will make almost 1000 gallons of syrup, which our evaporator should be able to process in just an afternoon. This five ton chiller from Advantage Engineering will cool the sap concentrate just as fast as we make it, and then will run at 20% capacity to maintain temperature. The room is completely spray foamed and the concrete pad has insulation underneath (fiberglass is not allowed due to condensation issues). We’ll post more info later once we get everything plumbed up and then again when sap starts running through it!
Large: $59 (value of $78)
- quart of syrup
- 24 oz sugar
- 1 lb cream
- 16 oz candy
Small Business Saturday is coming up right after Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 30th. Consider shopping small that day as you think about who you will be buying Christmas gifts for. Use the code “SBS2019” to order from our website for 20% off your order from now until November 30th!