The making of maple syrup has been done here in America since before the white man even hit its shores. Upon their arrival, however, the settlers soon began to partake in the practice, and it continues today wherever maples are found. It is done both by commercial sugar houses and private homesteaders. If you’ve ever desired to tap your own tree and make your own maple syrup it can be done.
The best time to tap a maple tree is in late winter or early spring. The tap holes can be drilled anywhere on the tree but there are a few guidelines you should follow.
1. Do not tap trees smaller than 10″ in diameter.
2. Early in the season sap production is highest on the south side of the tree.
3. Drill holes no deeper than 3″ into the wood and no closer than 6″ from previously drilled holes.
4. Drill holes at an upward angle into the tree, using a 7/16 drill bit for a 1/2″ spile or spout.
5. If you have a tree over 2 feet in diameter you can have up to 4 spouts. Otherwise it is best to stick to two.
Once you’ve drilled your holes, gently tap the spouts into the tree. The sap should be collected in covered containers.
Once you have collected your sap you should boil it down right away. You can wait up to 2 days if you have a cool place to store it. Always boil your sap outside, otherwise you’ll have a sticky film on everything inside your
house. You can boil sap down using any kind of fuel but be sure you have plenty on hand when you start. A simple firepit with wood for fuel is very efficient.
To boil down sap you’ll need a large pan that will hold at least a gallon of syrup at a time, a long stirring spoon, a candy thermometer, a second 1 gallon pot, a strainer and some cheesecloth.
Fill your pan half full with sap and bring it to a boil. As it is boiling you should skim off the top scum or froth with a strainer. Every 20 minutes or so you can add more sap, until it reaches 218 degees. The sap will start boiling at 212 degrees and when it reaches 218 degrees it is done.
Remove the pan from heat, cover it tightly with the cheesecloth and pour the syrup into your second pan. Remove the syrup from this pan as soon as possible and put it in its final containers.
The next thing you should do is enjoy some wonderful, homemade maple syrup.