I remember at first being initially excited. I'm a huge fan of maple syrup, everything else is just imitation as far as pancakes go, so the idea that we could create our own supply was thrilling. Until I saw the amount of sap and the yield. For a kid that was the most dissapointing realization. First of all I thought that the sap was the maple syrup- Why do I have to cook it down?
Most of the sap disappears during this process, and it is estimated that for every 40 gallons of sap you get only 1 gallon of maple syrup. That's the price we pay to get some of that golden sugary goodness. Back then I hated slaving over our old 1940's wood stove in our shed, sometimes having to stay in there well after dark, watching the sap cook down and stirring it occasionally. But now as an adult I want to sprinkle sugar maple tree seeds everywhere and grow a field of them so I can harvest a glutenous amount of syrup all for me me me..and my fiancé.
When and What Should You Tap?
Generally around mid-March to the start of April is when most people start tapping their maple trees. This can vary as the weather has been a little flaky lately for many of us, but generally the ideal conditions is a freezing cold night followed by a 40 degree day the next. If you jump the gun and you tap the trees too early and another cold spell hits, your tap will be cut off and you will have to wait it out until the thaw starts again. Spring thaw is the best time to gain some sap from your maple trees although you can get some in the fall or on a warmer winter day.
How to Tap Your Maple Trees
Step 1:Mark off the trees to be tapped
Take some twine or construction tape or a can of spray paint and mark each tree you plan to tap. When choosing maple trees, make sure that the tree is at least 10" in diameter. For each 6-8" in diameter more than 10" you can add another tap to the tree. For some old maple trees, they can have as many as 4 spouts in one!
Step 2:Drill It
Step 3:Hammer the Spout
Gently hammer in your metal tapping spouts, making sure not to crack the bark of your tree. If you crack the bark, sap will start to leak out of that and you will lose precious sap! So hammer the spout in lightly in bursts to make it go in far enough so that the spout won't fall out and so that you can hang your sap bucket from it.
Step 4:Buckets of Sap
Step 5:Boil 'er Down!
The age old test to see if your syrup is finished, is taking a spoon scoop of the liquid and pour back into the pot. If the liquid sticks to the bottom of your ladel, you have syrup!
Canning Instructions for Maple Syrup
So instead, can it!
Heat your syrup back up to a boil and then immediately pour it boiling hot into already hot sterile canning glass jars. Pint jars are a good size to use and just fill them up to 1/4"just below the top. Seal tightly with heated canning lids. Your jars will seal themselves up tight, no need for the water bath. This is a completely sterile, tried and proven way of canning maple syrup that has been done for over a century.