MAKING MAPLE CREAM
The first consideration in making Maple Cream is the kind of Syrup to use. For best results, medium Syrup that is almost light or light amber Syrup with good or at least bland flavor and no off flavors should be used. Off flavors are heightened in the making of Maple Cream. These same flavors usually get lost in the making of granulated Maple Sugar. The flavor of bland light Maple Syrup is usually heightened and enhanced by making it into Maple Cream. Mark your Syrup well as you put it into storage so that when you open a barrel or whatever storage unit you will know how to use it.
TESTING FOR INVERTS
From time to time I will mention invert-sugar. I do so because it is important to the successful making of Maple Cream. What are inverts? Quite simply, high inverts in Maple Syrup indicate that at some time the Syrup or the Sap that went into it was not tended to as quickly or as carefully as it should have been and some fermentation took place changing the Sugars in the Syrup slightly. Such Syrup might have excellent flavor, but when attempts are made to cream it, it will make very soupy Cream which will not set up very well. This might be overcome, to a degree, by cooking such Syrup a couple of degrees higher than usual before cooling it. The risk is that it still might not set up very well and that it is more likely to separate than Cream made from better Syrups. Syrup that is “on the edge” as far as Creaming, might be added to excellent Syrup and together they might make excellent Cream. Test run a small batch before mixing sizable quantities. Another way to use this Syrup is to sort it out for bottling.
It is best to know your Syrup!! There is an easy, inexpensive way to do that. A simple test using inexpensive items (some of you may have) and Clinitest tablets (diabetes test tablets) should be done on any Syrup you might intend to use to make Cream. Instructions are attached. If no test is available to you, use only light Syrup and do not use if there is any smell or taste of fermentation in it (a wine-like smell). Fermented Syrups usually can be heated to bottling temperature or higher, held at that temperature for a time (an hour or more) stirred occasionally, filtered, and bottled. The heating and “airing out” of such Syrup allows the alcohol which has formed in the Syrup to boil away. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature so holding it at 190 degrees will cause it to leave. The longer you hold it at that temperature, the less chance of an undesirable flavor or odor remaining. The brix may rise above 68 in the process, so recheck it with a hydrometer or refractometer.
COOKING AND COOLING
The Syrup is cooked until it reaches a boiling temperature (at full boil) of about 23 to 24 degrees F above the boiling point of water. Defoamer may be used if needed. I recommend the powdered form for this use. Skimming must be done if gray or dark scum or foam forms at the edge of the boil. If left there and stirred in with the final product, it will cause a gray look to your Cream and a bitter taste. The boiling point of water should be established at the time the Syrup is being boiled for Creaming. How high you boil it governs the stiffness of the final product. As a general rule, the darker the Syrup used, the higher it should be cooked. In any case, if a given lot of Syrup tends to yield soupy Cream, try cooking subsequent batches to a degree or two higher. If the yield is too stiff, do the opposite. Small amounts of boiled and very hot water might be stirred into a batch that turns too stiff while you are still churning it or after. Batches of differing consistency may be mixed together and allowed to sit for a day before packing. It is a good practice to cover tightly (if in a full pail) or with a damp towel (in a Cream pan) if you can’t pack it immediately. Cream may be reheated for pouring by placing your container in hot water. Do not allow the product to heat above 140 degrees or it will be altered. Heating tends to darken the product. Back to the boiling. Skimming should be done during boiling. Light Syrup should need less skimming than medium. When the Syrup has reached the right temperature, cut back the heat half or lower and cover with a wet towel for five minutes. Then turn off the heat completely, leaving the pan covered for another minute. Skim one more time, if necessary, and place your Syrup to cool preferably in cold running water. Do not stir or agitate your batch while it cools, as that can cause large crystals. The Syrup should be cooled to about 70 degrees as quickly as possible without agitation. I strongly recommend not using a thermometer to check the temperature of the product. It is very hard to place a thermometer in the pan and read it without agitating the Syrup. Instead, check it with your hand. If you lower your hand close to the surface and you still feel heat rising off the surface, it is still too warm. When it is cool enough, you will be able to put your hand on the surface and little if any warmth will be felt. If you always cook the same amount in a batch, you can time how long it takes to cool and then use a timer for subsequent batches. If, after all of your care to detail, you see or feel a shell of hard Sugar formed on the surface, it may be removed with a pancake turner and saved into a bucket to be used in Sugar or a later batch. If you don’t remove it, it will break up and cause grittiness throughout your Cream.
If you are cooking the Syrup in a pan other than the one used to cool and stir or churn, (steam kettle, etc.) be sure that the pan is heated and the Syrup is still boiling when you transfer it or the shock will cause large, grainy crystals. This may be accomplished by placing a cup of water in the pan to be heated and place the pan on a burner with low heat. As soon as the water starts to boil, dump the water out and dump the boiling Syrup in without delay. Care must be taken so as not to scorch the pan or the Syrup in the process.
One other thing that can cause large crystals in the product is when the Syrup has virtually no inverts (too fancy). That’s easily remedied in the next batch by adding a small quantity of medium or dark Syrup with higher inverts. Make sure the flavor of the Syrup added is good. Misting the surface of the Syrup with water from a sprayer bottle right after setting it to cool can prevent a crystal shell on the surface, as well.
The thickened and cooled Syrup should now be stirred or churned. You should have some boiled water to add to the cream if it gets too thick. I must say that the best investment I ever made was my Cream machine. If every other dollar I invested in my business returned dividends like it has, I’d be quite well off. It makes a tough job easy. The pan is placed on a turntable, and the paddles are held stationary in the rotating pan. All except the heaviest mixers will burn out quickly under the strain of churning Cream. The only other option is a strong spoon and an even stronger arm. Churning might take from 10 to 30 minutes. Stirring will take even longer. Nothing should be added to the Cream or it must be added to the label.
When you start churning, the dark, glassy Syrup will be at first rather stiff and then become more liquid. The color will become lighter. Soon it will become stiffer. About this time it will get lighter still in color and lose its shine and then it’s Maple Cream! If it isn’t as stiff as you would like at this time, don’t worry. After it sits a short time, it will usually become stiffer. Pausing for 2 minutes during the churning and then churning again will help to thicken the batch. When I make Maple Cream, I put four pans, each containing about four gallons of Syrup on two gas ranges (30 inch kitchen stoves) with two burners under each pan. In about two hours, I have all of them cooling in laundry sinks with cold water running in one side and out the other. They are supported on racks so that the water can run under the pans as well as around them. At that time I will place four more pans on the stoves and start cooking them. Since it takes two hours to cool my pans, I will be churning the first batch in time to put the second batch in the cooling water. Each pan will yield 35 pounds, so a batch, for me, is 140 pounds. By overlapping batches, a good day can be 420 or 560 pounds of Maple Cream. Maple Cream may be stored in plastic pails (tightly covered) in a cooler or for prolonged periods in a freezer. The same is true of heavy Cream in plastic bags.
HEAVY MAPLE CREAM
To make Cream appropriate for hand dipping in chocolate, follow the same procedure as above with the following exceptions:
Since we invented this confection back in 1988, we showed it to Sugarmakers throughout the Maple world and gave out instructions to all who were interested. It has become extremely popular wherever people are marketing it. We will e-mail a copy to anyone who wants one. Go to www.maplecream.com and let us know.
Granulated Maple Sugar is a wonderful product. It was likely the first Maple product made. When white settlers first arrived in North America, Native Americans in most areas with Maple Trees were making Maple Sugar. Settlers traded for it and then learned how to make it in New England, Canada, New York, Wisconsin, and any other place where Maples grew. When you consider the extreme difficulty of travel, the lack of communication between tribes, the even war-like relationships between some tribes, and the vastness of the sugaring area, yet how the practice was spread throughout we can draw several possible conclusions about its discovery or invention. 1. If it was discovered or invented in one place only, it must have been going on for a very long time to have spread so far. 2. It’s as likely to have been discovered first in Vermontsville, Michigan as in Vermont. 3. It might have been discovered on the same day in Minnesota and Maine. 4. The Natives met annually at the Holiday Inn each January to exchange ideas. (I think we can rule this one out.)
Only quite recently, in the early 1900’s did Maple Syrup start to take over. Containers and technologies made it possible to store Maple Syrup for prolonged periods. In New England, people who make only Maple Syrup are still called “Sugarmakers.” Their tradition and history dictates that. In Michigan, which was settled much later, we call ourselves “Maple Syrup Producers.” Maple Sugar was “the sweetener” for many until cane sugar became popular and plentiful and cheap. But Maple Sugar is making a comeback in some markets. There is a prime market for Maple Sugar in the gourmet food industry as a sweetener and flavoring in products. If you let them, Maple Sugar and Maple Cream can expand your profits through the “Market Within Your Market.” Example: You are selling Syrup to 50 faithful customers. Each time they stop in to buy Syrup you give them 2 ounces of another product along with instructions on how to use it. Before long your sales will have doubled without adding a customer.
MAKING MAPLE SUGAR
Maple Sugar is relatively easy to make. The Syrup you use can be darker and somewhat higher inverts. I’ve found that if the inverts are very high, however, the product will be gummy and will stick together. Off flavors are usually lost in the process, so you can sell some of your lesser Syrup for a really good price rather than selling it as bulk Syrup for a very low price.
Boil the Syrup as hard as you can until it reaches 290 to 300 degrees. Skim as needed. A few drops of defoamer will help to keep it from boiling over. (I prefer liquid defoamer for this product.) The 2 critical times for boil-over are when the Syrup first breaks a heavy boil and also somewhere between 221 and 224 degrees. At these points, the heat may have to be reduced to keep it from boiling over. Once you are past these points you can usually push the boil as hard as you would. The same is true when cooking Maple Cream.
When it boils at 290 to 300 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir it immediately and continuously. It is best to wear long sleeves, gloves and even glasses for this job. If this hot and very concentrated Syrup gets on your skin it sticks and hardens and stays very hot. When you pull it off you pull off skin with it. If you stop stirring even 5 minutes after removing the product from the heat it can boil over. Complete and continuous aeration of the product will assure the fastest and the best results. It’s a good idea to have a fan blowing on the surface to move away steam. We stir our Sugar in our Cream pans on our Cream machine. Doing this, however, will test the strength of the paddles and the power of the motor. Not all Cream machines are created equal. Try smaller batches at first to see if your machine is up to this. We constantly scrape sides and the bottom of the pan with a stainless steel spatula as it rotates. 5 to 10 minutes will granulate most batches. Caution, do not cook or stir Sugar in soldered pans. Solder will come loose and end up in the Sugar.
It is recommended that you transfer the Sugar to a large wooden mixing bowl or a basswood stirring trough and work it some more. The wooden surface helps to remove more moisture and the extra aeration and stirring breaks down lumps that may occur. Sifting smoothes the product and yields lumps. If you run a rolling pin over the lumps, break them down and then sift them again, the small, uniform beads that result may be sold as “Maple Sprinkles.” We sell them in 5 ounce shaker jars for $6.00 retail and $4.80 wholesale. That’s $155.00 /gallon retail and $123.00/gallon wholesale for the Syrup that goes into an otherwise undesirable by-product. Try to match that kind of profit anywhere else in your business. “Maple Sprinkles” are our highest profit item.
PROFIT IN SUGAR AND CREAM
If you want to get rid of your Syrup as soon as possible, make a little profit on the sale of it, some jobber will give you $10.00 to $18.00 per gallon for it depending on the grade, quality, and market conditions. You will have a large lump sum check and that will be that. But, if you’d rather market your Syrup in bottles you can and should get at least $35.00/gallon. Maple Cream sold at $8.00/pound will get you $68.00/gallon. Maple Sugar sold at $9.00/pound will get you $72.00/gallon. You can even sell at 20% discounts (to stores and other case-lot purchasers) and come out favorably. You see, there is money in these products, if you don’t mind getting a weekly paycheck.
This paper was prepared by Terry DeLoughary. He makes and
markets about 5 tons of Pure Maple Cream and 3 tons of Pure Maple
Sugar per year. He has answered the questions of Sugarmakers in 7
states and Canada regarding these products. His purpose in
presenting these notes is that others making these products might
learn from his experience and not have to make all of the mistakes
he had to make to acquire that experience.
INVERT TEST FOR MAPLE SYRUP
ITEMS NEEDED: TEST TUBES, EYE DROPPERS
ASK FOR CLINITEST AT DRUG STORE. THEY MAY HAVE TO ORDER IT.
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