How to Store Maple Syrup: Canning Jars or Jugs
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Once you have tapped your trees and boiled your sap down into homemade maple syrup, it is time to store your maple syrup for later use. This article shares two methods for storing maple syrup – in mason jars like those used for canning or in traditional maple syrup jugs. Safe storage is essential to make sure that your syrup does not grow mold or bacteria. Appropriately canned syrup can be safely used for a year or more without refrigeration.
For more resources on backyard sugaring, be sure to check out our section dedicated to maple syrup!
What can you use to Store Maple Syrup?
Glass Canning Jars
You can store your maple syrup in the same type of glass jars that you would use for canning. These are easily accessible and re-usable year after year. We tend to store in pint-sized jars because these hold a nice amount for about a month’s worth of syrup and are easy to store. Best practice is to always use new lids to make sure that they will seal properly. The downside of mason jars is that it can be harder to pour the syrup out of them; we tend to use a ladle or pour out enough for breakfast into a gravy boat or measuring cup with a spout.
Traditional Syrup Jugs
If you don’t want to use glass mason jars, your other option is to purchase traditional maple syrup jugs. You can re-use maple syrup jugs with sterilization (see below) or you can purchase new jugs online or from a local farm store. Always use new lids when re-using maple syrup jugs as the lids have the sealing function you need for storage. These jugs are easy to store and use with their narrow pouring mouth, but you can’t see the syrup inside, so you might not notice if your stored syrup is starting to go bad. We started using these after a few years once we knew we were going to make enough syrup to make the purchase worth it, and that we knew what we were doing!
Preparing Your Jars or Maple Syrup Jugs for Storage
In order to avoid mold and bacteria in your syrup, you need to sterilize the containers that you are using for storage. This means cleaning and boiling or steaming them before filling them with syrup. To sterilize mason jars you can use a boiling water bath for 12 minutes. You can also place clean glass mason jars in the oven 15 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit to sterlize. Make sure you also warm up the lids in a pot of simmering water to both clean and prepare them for canning.
Maple syrup jugs are safe to store your syrup without sterilizing if they are brand new. However, if you are reusing a syrup jug you need to clean it thoroughly and then boil or steam it for 12 minutes to sterilize.
Both of these processes should be done just before canning so that your jars or jugs are warm when the hot syrup is poured in. This will help to ensure that jars do not break, and also aid in creating a good seal. That said, it is not required that your containers be hot when canning.
When is Maple Syrup Ready to be Stored?
Maple syrup is “ready” once it hits the appropriate density and temperature. To test the syrup, you can use a hydrometer (a tool for measuring the specific gravity of liquids). Alternatively, if you do not have a hydrometer you can use your finger as an indicator by dropping a bit of hot syrup into cold water. If it forms a ball that holds together when rolled in your hand, the syrup is ready to be stored.
You can also tell that syrup is ready with a thermometer. Syrup boils at approximately 7.5 degrees higher than water. While this temperature can vary depending on your elevation (you can check by measuring the temperature of boiling water at your house), you can typically assume syrup is ready when it boils gently at 219-220 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are a backyard sugarer with a small maple syrup operation, it can be hard to have enough syrup to reach this temperature in your evaporator pan without the depth of the syrup getting too low and burning (read more about the backyard boiling process here). We prefer to bring our maple syrup indoors when it reaches about 212-215 degrees. We pour it out of the evaporator into a large stockpot and bring it into our stovetop for the last few minutes of boiling.
Once your maple syrup has reached 219-220, it is “finished” and you are ready for the next step.
Filtering Maple Syrup
We prefer to filter our maple syrup before it is stored in order to remove any bits of sediment or “crud” that might have formed during the boiling process. This crud can cause your maple syrup to spoil faster. Not everyone filters maple syrup, but be sure to do your research if you want to skip this step.
You can use a variety of filters for filtering maple syrup: cheesecloth, a fine-mesh strainer, or a coffee filter will all work relatively well. Or, you can use a specially-made syrup filter paper that is thicker and takes a bit longer to process but gets all of the sediment out.
The syrup should be filtered while it is still hot; if you wait until the syrup has cooled it will be harder to remove the crud and your filter will become clogged more quickly.
If your syrup isn’t hot enough to be filtered, you can pour it back into the pot and heat it gently on the stovetop until it reaches about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, filter as normal.
How to Can Maple Syrup
Canning maple syrup is easy once you have all of the necessary supplies and your syrup has reached the finished stage. Once you have filtered your syrup it will likely have lost a few degrees in temperature. Place it back on the stovetop to bring it back up to at least 180 – 200 degrees (going any hotter may cause it to get too thick). Once it has reached this temperature, do one of the following:
If Canning in Glass Mason Jars:
Pour hot syrup into canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Use a wet clean rag to wipe the rims of the jars and then place sterilized lids on top. Screw on rings just finger-tight; you don’t want to overtighten them and risk breaking your jars. Some directions will tell you to then place your jars in a hot water bath canner, but this is actually not necessary. The hot syrup in the hot sterilized jars will cause the jars to seal for storage. Canning them in a water bath may actually cause your syrup to become thick and gel-like, which isn’t desired.
If Storing in Traditional Jugs:
To store in traditional jugs, pour the hot finished syrup into the jug with a funnel, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top of the jug. Then immediately cap with a new screw-on cover. Some folks recommend turning the syrup jugs upside down after filling, to create a vacuum seal. We’ve never had any problems with syrup going bad by not doing this, but it can’t hurt!
Allow your jars or jugs of syrup to cool at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Once they have cooled, you can store them in a cool dark place like a pantry, root cellar, basement, or garage.
How Long Can Maple Syrup be Stored?
Maple syrup should ideally be stored in a cool dark place where the temperature does not fluctuate too much. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends storing maple syrup in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life. If refrigerated, and not canned, your maple syrup should last for at least a year.
If you have canned your maple syrup properly and it is stored in a cool dark place (like a basement), it could potentially last for several years. Always check your syrup before serving – if it has moldy growth or smells rancid, it is probably not safe to eat.
Maple syrup is a delicious way to add flavor and sweetness to your favorite recipes, and it can be stored safely for long periods of time if done correctly. By following the steps in this post, you can ensure that your maple syrup will stay fresh and tasty for months – or even years! But at the very least, store enough to last you until next maple syrup season 🙂