I grew up in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania in a town that was so well known for it's maple syrup making, they had a Maple Festival every spring to celebrate. My favorite festival snack was maple cotton candy. It was damn good! For all my love of maple syrup growing up, I rarely ate it because it was so expensive. Nor did I make it myself, because boiling hundreds of gallons of sap on a very hot fire isn't something most kids are allowed to do. Instead we shot potato cannons at each other.
Fast forward to being a landed gent in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Our hobby farm has plenty of big old field maples scattered about, and late winter is a time for twiddling thumbs waiting for spring to truly arrive. What's a guy to do, other than go waterfall hunting and spring crust hiking? Make maple syrup! I finally began fulfilling my dream in 2015 with a cheap-o steam table pan setup. I made a few gallons and was hooked.
I wouldn't say I'm straight pro at maple syrup making yet, but after a few years and many long days spent working in the sugar shack, I'm probably close. I used to boil on concrete block contraptions, but in late-2020 I invested in a Half Pint evaporator and gave up on the junk heap once and for all. My sap is stored in 5 gallon buckets behind the sugar shack, encased in snow piles to keep it fresh until I can boil next. I have 38 taps on maybe 18 trees, many of which are huge and produce over a gallon of sap each tap per day! In a good day I can boil my way through 50-60 gallons of sap, netting anywhere between 1.5-2 gallons of syrup in one go depending on the sugar content of the sap. I've got a huge stash of wood inside the sugar shack, which was originally built as a horse barn. This means I can boil rain, shine, or blizzard.
I've got plenty of improvements I'd like to make, including a pre-heater pan, some sort of hood to keep sap from dripping off the metal ceiling back into the pan, drainage for the dirt floor to keep melting snow out, and a way to keep rabid raccoons from harassing me mid-boil. I'll get to those someday.
Yearly Production Numbers
2015: 4.5 gallons
2016: 6.5 gallons
2017: 4.6 gallons
2018: 4.8 gallons
2019: 10 gallons
2020: 7.5 gallons