Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Maple Syrup

Begin with the weather, followed by the tree.
Hook up a tube, wait and see.

In order for sap to run, the weather must be below freezing at night and 35-45 during the day. Sunny is preferred, but there have been days when it was 40 and cloudy, and the sap ran like dickens.
The ideal tree is, of course, the sugar maple, followed closely by the black maple. Other maples can be used, which we do, but the sugar content of the sap is slightly less.

Drill a hole in any maple greater in diameter than 10 inches. Very large trees can support several taps. The hole must be 1-3 inches deep and angle slightly towards the ground.  Carefully tap in a tapered spout and attach a tube, bucket, or bag. Different types of spouts support different types of containers. We simply use food grade milk hose and clean juice containers.

On an average sapping day, each tap will give about a gallon. During the last week of the season, there is usually a rush of sap and we have to collect twice a day to prevent the containers from running over.

We drill a hole in the lid, as opposed to leaving the top open. Bugs and wildlife love maple sap.
The sap must be collected daily and kept cool, or it will spoil really fast. Properly refrigerated, the sap will keep about a week.

When we have enough the sap gets poured into the evaporator pan.

The average yield is about 35 or 40 to 1. This means it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Thats a lot of sap!

This is a stainless evap pan. The fire box is built in underneath, accessible from the other end. We burn wood to boil down the sap.  As the sap boils down, it begins to darken in color.

This is the other end, and the finishing pan. You can see the fire box door below. The finishing pan gets the hottest and sap is added as the moisture boils away to keep it from scorching.  

As the water is boiled away, the boiling point rises. When the temperature reaches 7 degrees about the boiling point of water, the syrup is considered done. We usually pull it sooner. This gives us the opportunity to strain it and finish on a stove top for greater control.

You wouldn't believe how good boiling sap smells until you have actually smelled some. At this point in the process, I want to taste it SO bad, but I don't dare. It will melt your tongue into a useless puddle of goo.


  1. I am trying to imagine the aroma...I'm sure it's WAY better in person. I just remember how much I loved my mom's homemade syrup. She thinks it was no big thing. It was to me :D

  2. You can smell it outside when the fire is really rolling. It's a good thing we don't live near the city, or else we might attract hungry vagrants!