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Should You Toss The Ice In Your Sap?

It’s a long standing debate in the maple sugaring community. Is Frozen Sap Just WATER? Does Frozen Sap Contain SUGAR?  Should you leave it in there and boil it down with the rest of your sap?

Personally, I’ve never thrown away my frozen sap. Why? Because I’m not one to waste anything. And as a kid, I have fond memories of chewing on the frozen ‘sapsicles’ that would be clinging to the spiles on cold Canadian mornings in the sugar bush. Yes, those maple popsicles were sweet. When sap freezes, it’s safe to say that the water will freeze before the sugar, but just how much sugar remains in that frozen skim of sap in your buckets? This was something I wanted a definitive answer to, if only for my own understanding.

The following video shows what happened when I boiled down frozen sap:

I decided to save 3 5 gallon pails full of nothing but the frozen parts of the sap buckets. I filtered the liquid sap and saved just the ice that remained. Needless to say, I was impressed with the outcome after boiling down the 37 litres of sap I had saved from the ice.

Ratios of sap to syrup that are considered ‘good’ in maple sugaring are in the neighbourhood of 40:1, with sugar maples. Box Elders have a much higher ratio, and often above 60:1.

The yield in this experiment came out to be 74:1. After boiling down 37 litres of frozen sap, I was left with 1/2 a litre of pure Canadian maple syrup. Now, if I look at that over the course of a whole sugaring season, that is a lot of wasted sap and maple syrup potential – especially when you consider that this was just one days worth of frozen sap that I used in the experiment.


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