Hurray! it’s maple season, almost.
The whole maple syrup process is so easy that I always wonder why more people don’t give it a try.
Well, now is the time of year to consider adding it to your adventure. It has one of the most inexpensive start ups of any food related hobby. We spent $7 to get started. The result: a years worth of magnificent maple syrup. We don’t have to spend a dime this year, since we’ve already got the taps and tubes.
I am a lazy gardener. I count on the chickens to turn the compost heap and rid the tilled ground of weed seeds before I plant in the spring.
This lack of oomph is why home maple production is for me. Basically, you drill a hole, let the sap run into a container, dump the container into a pot, cook it waaaaaaay down, and … TaDa! Maple syrup
Here are the basic for when you have a spell of frozen nights and thawing days:
1. You can tap any maple tree with at least a 10 inch (25 cm) diameter or 31 inch ( 77 cm ) circumference. Ideally, a sugar maple is nicest, but any old maple tree will do. Well, okay, not a Japanese maple…though I forget why. All the other kinds seem fine.
2. Drill at an upward angle and gently hammer the tap in ’til secure.
3. Stick a piece of clear tubing from the tap to your container.
We found clear,potable water tubing at the local hardware store and just snipped the lengths we needed.
4. Let the sap run down to very thoroughly cleaned milk jugs.
5. When the jug is full of cold, clear sap it is time to cook it down.
My mother kept a pan of sap on her wood burning stove. Occasionally, she would skim the froth and add more sap. She never allows is to boil — just a light simmer to cook down the sap.
Each night she put it in the refrigerator ’til the next morning. When it finally reached a consistency she liked, she filtered it and poured it into sterile mason jars. The jars sealed themselves as they cooled.
If you are trying this project, you might enjoy the “Sugar Snow” chapter from “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It helps you to understand the basics. Or read it to your favorite little kid.
Here are two web sites that I found very helpful:
- Real maple syrup is nothing like the viscous maple flavored pancake syrup from the store. That has a corn syrup base. Maple syrup has a very thin consistency.
- We never use thermometers or hydrometers. We use our eyes and tongue to test.
- The trees that produce the sap that requires the least cooking down seem to be the ones that stand alone, like the one in the picture above.
- Check your lines for frozen sap.
- The jug that is on the sunniest side of the tree will produce the most sap and need to be emptied more frequently.
- Put the lid on the jug to keep the yuckies out, but poke a little hole or two near the top for the air to escape as the sap fills the jug. It will slow down or even stop, if you don’t.
- If you choose to cook it down over a wood fire outside, cover the pan with some kind of screen or the ashes will land in it.
- We were very happy with the yield from 10 taps in 4 different trees.
- All of this makes a great science fair project for little ones. Or perhaps, a good badge adventure for a Scout.
- Don’t drool into the sap as your stir it. It smells so good! Be careful.