How to Make Syrup From Maple Tree Sap

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Maple syrup has been around for hundreds of years. Native Americans used it before the arrival of the Europeans, and both maple sugar and maple syrup were some of the first products exported from the New World in the 1600s. Many early settlers used maple syrup and sugar because it was much less expensive than buying cane sweetener from the West Indies. When cane plantations came to America the Abolitionists advocated the use of maple products because no slave labor was used to produce them.

Things You'll Need

  • Maple trees
  • Drill, cordless
  • 5/8 inch drill bit
  • Spouts with hooks
  • Rubber mallet
  • Buckets
  • Kettle
  • Large spoon
  • Fire
  • Metal tripod
  • Pot
  • Stove
  • Drill into a maple tree, making a hole in which to insert the spout. Use a cordless drill with a 5/8 drill bit. Tap the spout in place with a rubber mallet. The hole should be no deeper than necessary for the spout to be fully inserted. Hang a bucket from the spout. Repeat this process with as many trees as you would like to tap.

  • Allow the sap to collect during the day. Pour all of the syrup from the different pails into a single kettle. When you have collected at least four or five gallons, hang the kettle on a tripod over a fire and boil the sap, stirring it from time to time to keep it from sticking or burning. Be careful it doesn't get so hot that it burns: if the sap begins to bubble a lot, remove it from the fire for a few minutes and allow it to cool slightly.

  • Boil the sap continually until the amount has reduced to about one eighth of its original volume. It will be much thicker than it was, but it still won't be syrup.

  • Pour the sap into a smaller pot and take it into the house. Place the pot on the stove and continue boiling it.

  • Keep stirring and watching the sap. If it begins to boil too hard, producing lots of foamy bubbles, remove it from the heat and stir to prevent burning. Reduce the heat and return the sap to the stove. When the sap has boiled down to about one quarter of the amount you brought into the house, it is done. Allow it to cool.

Tips & Warnings

  • A rule of thumb is that one tap hole can produce about 20 gallons of sap in a season. It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make about one gallon of syrup, so you can figure you will need two holes to make a gallon of syrup. Realistically it will probably require more than that, since there is always some waste or spillage to be contended with. Maple sap can only be collected in early spring, when it gets above freezing in the day and below freezing at night.
  • Do not tap into small trees. A maple should be at least a foot in diameter at two feet off the ground to be considered big enough to tolerate being tapped. Smaller trees may die if they are drilled into.
  • Use caution when heating the syrup, to avoid burns. If it gets on your skin rinse quickly with cold water.

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References

  • Photo Credit Collecting the sap from a maple tree image by Rob Hill from Fotolia.com
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