Tapping Your Trees
If you have several maple trees at your disposal, it will help to survey the trees to make sure they're the best fit for your syrup plans. Ideally, you want to only tap trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter at about 54 inches high from the ground. This will allow for gravity to help you collect the sap, while also helping you extract the most sap possible.
If a tree is up to 20 inches in diameter, it should only have one tap in its side. Trees between 20 inches and 25 inches can have two spouts, while anything over 25 inches in diameter can have three spouts.
In order to tap your tree, you will need to drill into the side of the maple tree about 2 inches deep, depending on how small your taps or spouts might be. Try to find a section of bark that is not damaged in any way and if there are previous tap holes in the tree, try to stay as far away from those as you can.
The newer the drill bit the better so as to avoid wood backing up into the sap hole and slowing down the flow of sap to your bucket.
Once the hole is drilled into the tree, install the tap by pushing it into the hole. The tap should feel secure in the hole.
It can be helpful to tap your trees on slightly warmer days so as to prevent any possible wood warping or splitting near the tap place.
Collecting the Sap
To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though they will be little drips and won't amount to much at first. Place the lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.
The best time of year to collect maple sap is in the early part of the year - between January and the early weeks of March. This is when the sap is moving more readily through the tree, allowing you to collect the highest volume of sap.
After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you're satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat or collection bucket to take inside to start making syrup. You do not want to store your sap, however, as it can spoil.
Replace the collection bucket and if you have enough sap, it's time to begin the syrup making process.
You want to boil the sap until it becomes thicker and thicker as the water boils off. You want to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1 ½ inches from the bottom of the pan. You can add cold sap to hot sap or you can cook two pans of sap at the same time and add one to the other to prevent the bottom from burning.
As the sap is boiling, you will want to skim off any foam that might be on the top, removing it and any other particulates that might be on the surface.
Using a candy thermometer, you will want to boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above your area's boiling temperature. Usually, the boiling temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but different altitudes can have different temperatures.
Once you've reached this level, you can choose to filter your maple syrup to remove any other waste that might have gotten into the sap or into the buckets as you collected the sap.
Or you can let the syrup completely cool as the sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottle, allowing you to pour off the 'good' syrup into a fresh container.
Pour the remaining syrup into the glass bottle. Let the bottle cool and you're ready to serve fresh made maple syrup.
If you're planning on canning your syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.
American Maple Musuem
The American Maple Museum was founded in 1977 to preserve the history and evolution of the North American maple syrup industry.
Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Association
Dedicated to helping its members meet a commitment to produce the best quality syrup.
Maine Maple Producers Association
At MMPA we are committed to providing our members with a variety of different ways to help produce and market Pure Maine Maple Syrup.
Vermont Maple Open House
The Open House Weekend is a celebration of the maple syrup season and an opportunity for the public to visit one or more “sugarhouses” throughout the state to learn about Vermont’s first agricultural crop of the year.