by Sarah Laue
My husband and I have always been intrigued by the process of making maple syrup. This year, seeing that we have one extremely large Sugar Maple tree in our front yard, we decided to take on the challenge.
We did a little research to learn when the best time was to tap trees. It turns out that the sap generally starts to flow between mid-February and mid-March. The exact time of year depends upon where you live and weather conditions. Sap flows when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and night-time temperatures fall below freezing. The rising temperature creates pressure in the tree that generates the sap flow.
Then we needed materials. We wanted to use whatever recycled materials we could from around the house, so after buying the taps, we drilled holes in the tops of milk jugs to hold the sap. We attached the tubes from the taps to the milk jugs and tied the jugs to the tree (pictured).
To our amazement, the sap started flowing immediately and steadily. The sap would flow faster if the temperature rose or the sun was shining just right on the tree. On average, we were drawing one gallon of sap per day. We were also astonished that the sap was clear and had a watery taste. There was a small trace of sweetness, but it was more subtle than we were expecting.
Each evening, we dumped the sap into five-gallon buckets that we stored on ice in our cooler. Once both five-gallon buckets were filled, it was time to boil.
To make the maple syrup, the excess water has to be boiled from the sap. It takes 40 parts maple sap to make one part maple syrup, so 10 gallons of sap will boil down to one quart of syrup. As you can imagine, boiling 10 gallons of sap takes a long time!
It’s best to boil the sap outside due to the amount of moisture being extracted as well as the length of the process. Thankfully, I’m married to a handy man. My husband built a rocket stove which uses high-temperature combustion, making it roughly twice as efficient and substantially cleaner than an open-fire cooking method.
Between our two days of boiling sap, on average, it took about six hours to complete the process. In the final stages, the sap becomes much darker and starts to stick to the spoon; this is when you know the boiling process is complete.
TapMyTrees.com has a helpful step-by-step for the entire process.
So far, we’ve collected more than 20 gallons of sap and yielded two quarts of syrup. The process was fun, rewarding and, most importantly, delicious. Now, we have a new appreciation for syrup as we enjoy our weekly Saturday morning pancakes!
Sarah Laue lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is her second contribution to Michiganders Post. Read her first contribution, “What’s the Score? A Consumer’s Report on Cosmetics.”