Tap That Sap: How to Make Your Own Maple Syrup

Hanging on-1

Nature’s Sweet Gift. We all know it’s part of our heritage (remember this?), but how many of us can actually say we know how to make maple syrup?

Perhaps we’re in the same boat. And you may know the familiar tale of warm days + cool nights = tree awakening and sap running, but how many of us have actually drilled a hole in a maple?

I, for one, have not. Until now.

Turns out, it’s not rocket science…and now you can, too.

So let’s get tappin’!

First, as Syrup Maker Neophytes, lets start with some basics:

  • In Nova Scotia, Cumberland County is syrup country with ~50% of the commercial maple operations in Nova Scotia and ~75% of the taps and production.
  • It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon syrup. Yes, that means a lot of boiling. This ratio will vary depending on the sugar content of the sap- the more sugar, the less sap you’ll need.
  • Generally, they say 6 taps will leave you (after boiling) 1 gallon of syrup. Depending on the size of the tree, you may have more than one tap in a tree, buut taps should be kept at least 6 inches from holes made in previous years to avoid harming the tree.
  • It’s estimated the cost of making maple syrup on an electric stove works out to be 1/3rd the actual retail cost for pure maple syrup. It’s more cost effective (and less messy) to boil down outside over a wood fired rig, but this isn’t possible for everyone.

So now, without further ado, here are:

Based on directions from the Friends of Pippy Park

1. Picking a Treemaple-1
Trees should be at least 10 inches diameter at the largest point to provide sufficient sap. You will only be collecting 5% of the tree’s sap so you shouldn’t hurt the tree.
Any maple will do; however, you’ll get the most syrup for your efforts with a sugar maple. They have a higher sugar content so their sap does not need to be reduced as much.

2. Sanitizing Your Equipment
Scrub taps, buckets and lids, with one part bleach to two parts water.
Rinse with hot water.

3. Setting up your Equipment
Your bucket should be secured via rope to the trunk of the tree within 3 feet of where you plan to tap.maple-1-3
Using a 19/64 (or 5/16) drill bit, drill 2 1/2 inches deep at a maple-1-7slight upwards angle (so sap will be running down) at least 3 feet off the ground.
Clear the wood shavings and insert the tap (aka spile), pressing it in as far as possible. You might have to tap it lightly with a hammer.

4. Collecting Sap
Sap or maple water will only flow at above freezing temperatures, but the flow increases with maple-1-5fluctuations in the weather (from above to below freezing frequently). Depending on the weather, your sap may need to be transferred to a storage container every 2 to 3 days.
You can boil off sap as often as you need but should not wait longer than 2 weeks from collection. Sap is like fruit juice; it will spoil if not kept cool. Keep it covered in snow or in a fridge until you are ready to boil it off.
Maple water without reducing is quite healthy, containing over 46 nutrients. In order to ensure bacteria is not present, it is recommended you bring the maple water to a rolling boil for one minute before cooling and consuming as water.

5. Reducing Sap to Syrup
This is the time-consuming part. Around 90% of the sap will need to be boiled off in the form of steam to get syrup.syrup2
Some choose to leave the syrup a little thin in order to both make it last longer and have fewer calories.
Note that later season sap will produce a much darker syrup.

6. End of Season
Once you see buds on the tree or the temperatures remain above freezing overnight, it is unfortunately the end of the season. While sap continues to run, it becomes bitter.
Remove the tap from the tree and sanitize your equipment for storage until next year.

Maple Models include Peter, Hiro and Paws the Cat at Scenic Valley Farm in Margaree, Cape Breton. 

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