This is not something I had on my wish list but since we have few maple trees in our backyard, last year we decided to tap some of them so the kids would see the process of making Maple Syrup. It was such a great experience that we will continue to do this every year.
If you have a maple tree or more here are few things to help you decide if you want to tap your trees or not. Don’t think only about the maple syrup as sap (Maple Water) can also be consumed and it’s packed with electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. Maple water is one of the newcomers in the healthy beverage trend joining Coconut Water, Kombucha, and others. Next time you go to the grocery store check the refrigerated beverage section and look how much a bottle of Maple Water costs. If you have a maple tree in your backyard why not tap it and drink the sap for free (or at a minimal investment for the first year when you need to buy the taps), you will probably have enough to share with your neighbors and friends too. If you don’t want to share you can freeze the maples water and thaw before using.
I’m all about plant based products and Maple Water had me at the ingredient list – maple sap = plant hydration. Now that’s a quick recipe. Once you collect and filter the sap I boil it for 3-5 minutes and bottle it to enjoy as sap water.
If you plan on making maple syrup it’s best to boil the sap outdoors or in the garage as it takes a long time and the boiling process releases a lot of moisture. Just think about this – it takes about 10 gallons of sap to make a quart of syrup; the sugar content in the sap is about 2 % so the water will evaporate. We have a stove in the garage but I have seen people using an outdoor cooker to make the the syrup and I understand that one 20 lb propel tank is enough for a batch. The boiling process is an all day thing so make sure you pick a day when you are around the house.
Now let’s get to the details. The first thing is to mark your maple trees. This should be done in the fall while the trees still have leaves and you can identify the maple trees. If you know the Canadian flag you know the shape of a maple tree leaf so go outside and look for those and mark the trees.
Next, buy your equipment, here are the products I like and you can decide depending on how many trees you want to tap:
- Set of taps and buckets: (these would be enough for 3 trees) I like the buckets as they are easy to handle, also the set comes with a book too and has lots of good info – https://amzn.to/2DWbwXc
- For some of the trees I just got the taps and I am using the 5 gallon water replacements from our water dispenser to collect the sap. One thing to note about using 5 gallon bottles is that they do get heavy so take into consideration the distance you need to carry that before installing. Since I already had the containers I only needed the taps so this was a cheaper option https://amzn.to/2U10eIa
- If you decide to boil the sap and make maple syrup you will need some large pots, the cheapest I found was at Walmart for about 15 usd I believe for a 5 gallon pot.
- To make maple syrup you will also need a hydrometer –https://amzn.to/2DY47H1 and a hydrometer cup https://amzn.to/2EnqPtp so you can check when the maple syrup is done.
- You will also need some jars or maple syrup bottles to bottle the maple syrup or bottles for the sap.
- Mid February you can install your equipment. Most packs will have instructions but basically you drill a hole (facing East), insert the tap and connect it to the bucket or the container you are using.
- The sap will start flowing when night temperatures are below 32 and daytime temperatures are above 32. You need to decide what you do with the sap within 4-5 days after collecting.
- Use an old cotton t-shirt to filter the sap before boiling it , if you want to purchase special filters you can try these ones – https://amzn.to/2EU2PwW
- Once the sap boils down you can add more sap to the pot
- Once it boils down the sap will start foaming, you can butter the edges of the pot so it doesn’t foam over – trust me that can be messy
- The color of the sap will change from clear to golden and to the beautiful amber color we all know (although keep in mind that different sap has different colors and it also differs based on the time when you collect it – early in the season or later)
- Once you see the amber like color and the syrup is still watery I like transfer the sap to a smaller pot (butter the sides so it does not foam over) and do the final boiling inside because it goes very quickly and you need to keep a close eye on it as it’s likely to boil over. Also use this opportunity to filter again the sap.
- You need to continue to boil the sap until it has a syrup texture. This is when you can use use the Hydrometer and the Test cup to check if you have maple syrup
- Once the sap reaches the maple syrup consistency you can filter it again and bottle it or put in jars. If you notice sediment collects at the bottom of the jar as it cools down do not worry that’s just sugar sand and you can change to a different jar if you like but you will loose a small amount of syrup.
- When bottling maple syrup I like to put the bottles (without the lids) in the over at around 200-250 degrees F to sterilize the bottles. You can also boil the lids or clean them with a bit of rum.