Equipment You Will Need
Most of the equipment needed for tapping trees and making maple syrup may be available in your home or purchased with minimal investment:
- drill with 7/16 inch diameter drill bit
- spile (spout), either metal or plastic, for each taphole
- rustproof bucket or container with cover (clean plastic milk jugs work)
- collection/storage containers for sap storage before processing
- pan with high sides for boiling sap (stainless steel works best)
- thermometer calibrated to at least 230 degrees F.
- filter or cheesecloth for filtering hot finished syrup
- containers for storing finished maple syrup (canning jars, etc.)
How to Make Maple Syrup Now that you have collected the maple sap, here's how to turn it into maple syrup:
- Find one or more maple trees. Sugar Maples have the most sugar in their sap but other maples such as the Red Maple, Silver Maple, and Ash-leafed Maple, can also be tapped, although their sap isn't quite as sweet and the sap doesn't flow as long. Be sure to select trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter and 4 1/2 feet above the ground.
- Drill a 7/16 inch diameter hole in the trunk, two or three inches deep. Really large trees can have two or three taps.
- Clean any loose wood out of the hole and lightly tap a spile into it with a hammer. You can buy spiles, or spouts, at feed stores or farm supply stores.
- Hang a clean, rust-proof bucket, can, or plastic milk jug from the spile to catch the sap as it drips out. A container with a lid will help keep rain water from diluting the sap and will also keep bits of bark, insects, etc. from falling into the sap.
- When the containers begin to fill, the sap should be collected and refrigerated until you are ready to boil it down to syrup.
- Boil the sap in a large stainless steel pot or pan, preferably outdoors so that the steam will not cause problems in the house. You can build an outdoor firepit, use a camp stove, or even an outdoor grill.
- Take the temperature of the sap when it first comes to a boil. This will help you know when it is finished syrup. The faster the sap is boiled, the higher the quality of the syrup. When the sap begins to thicken, take it indoors to finish boiling it on a stove where it is easier to control the heat.
- The syrup will have the right concentration of sugar when it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than when it first boiled. At or near sea level, the temperature will be about 219 degrees for finished syrup. Keep a close eye on the sap as it nears this point to keep it from scorching or boiling over. A bit of butter or margarine rubbed at the top rim of the boiling pan will often keep it from boiling over.
- Strain the finished syrup through clean cheesecloth or a food-approved filter to remove any bits of debris, as well as any crystalized minerals.
- The sugar content of maple syrup is so high that it can be stored at room temperature without spoiling. Maple syrup can also be stored in the refrigerator or even the freezer (the sugar content keeps it from freezing!)