My eyebrows raised in our last annual Michigan Maple Syrup Association (MMSA) meeting earlier this year as a result of a discussion of how to best clean your after season evaporator and syrup pan. As the members contributed their best practices, several discussed the effectiveness of just leaving raw sap in the pan for months or more to clean their pans. As the process ensued, the sap turns sour and from the descriptions of the contributors, the result would be pans that are shiny clean. The eyebrow raising related to the smell that was described as “gagging” to most with a few going beyond that description. However, they felt the end result seemed to justify the means, More to come of this as another local maple syrup producer is experimenting with this pan cleaning technique this year and our conversations have been intertwined with many grins on my part.
Now with that said, the “gagging and beyond” was enough for me and we decided that we would not follow suit in cleaning our evaporator and syrup pans. Our method is “gag’ proof and involves a mixture of 50/50 of white vinegar and water. Our syrup pan had the most buildup and the mixture removed the buildup in sheets will very little brushing. Not that it was not good enough after a couple of weeks to drain and wipe dry the pan, we left the mixture in the syrup pan for two months before we removed the solution and finished filling our evaporator tank. After all, a little is best but typically more is better and it seemed to pay off.
Today, the pans are shiny and we can confess that, no “gagging” occurred and we are watching and listening with interest while our “like and kindred spirited” friends using the fermented sap technique to clean their after season maple syrup pan buildups. Our lesson learned comes under “physical tolerance” and although we spent approximately $120.00+ in white vinegar purchases, we learned that there are more than one way to achieve a clean pan without “heaving your cookies” in the process.
We concluded that: Some practices are hard to embrace and therefore they rarely become a tradition and we chalked this one up to “they can and we “don’t even wanna try”!