How to Make Maple Syrup

Pure Vermont Maple Syrup

While no one is quite sure when the practice of making maple syrup began, one thing is for certain - it's certainly a tradition that continues to this day.

Store shelves are lined with syrups, country shops sell their own brands, and you can even find gift wrapped syrups in a variety of

flavors. From those who want to make maple syrup for a business to those who simply prefer to cover their pancakes with something they made themselves, maple syrup is the perfect solution.
While no one is quite sure when the practice of making maple syrup began, one thing is for certain - it's certainly a tradition that continues to this day. Store shelves are lined with syrups, country shops sell their own brands, and you can even find gift wrapped syrups in a variety of flavors. From those who want to make maple syrup for a business to those who simply prefer to cover their pancakes with something they made themselves, maple syrup is the perfect solution.

A Brief History of Maple Syrup

The Native Americans of the United States and Canada seem to be the first creators of maple syrup, taking the liquid from maple trees and removing the excess fluids. Even the English chemist Robert Boyle noted this discovery on a trip he made to the United States in 1663. He saw that the Native Americans were creating a "sweet and saccharine substance."

Though a popular source, Massachusetts isn't alone in its production of maple syrup. Many everyday people are looking for ways to make their own maple syrup - and it's not as difficult as it may seem.

What You Need to Make Maple Syrup

Before you can even consider making maple syrup, you will need to look at the types of trees available to you. Maple syrup is derived from sugar maple trees or from red maple trees - the sugar maples will produce a popular of variety syrup, while the red maple is also quite sweet.

In terms of how much sap you can get per tree, this will depend on the size of the tree, the way you tap the tree, and what season it is. The average amount of sap you can extract from a tree is about 5 to 15 gallons. However, some trees have been known to produce up to 80 gallons of sap in a year.

The person who wants to make enough syrup for their own consumption will also want to keep in mind that it will take 10 gallons of sap to create one quart of syrup, after the full process of syrup making has been completed.

For those who want to have plenty of syrup throughout the year, it can be helpful to have at least 2 maple trees available to you for tapping as the season is short and you need to collect a lot of sap in order to make more than one bottle a year.

In addition, you will also need a power drill with about a ½ inch diameter bit at the end and a length long enough to drill into the side of a tree for about 4 inches, depending on the thickness of the tree's diameter.

To help the sap flow out of the tree, you will need a spout, which can be made of metal or of plastic. Or you can purchase a special syrup spout at a specialty store.

You will need multiple spouts for multiple trees as well as buckets to catch the sap in. If you can find lids for these buckets as well, that is the best way to keep other items from flying into the sap liquid. Metal buckets are best as they keep the sap cool and protected.

You will also need some large buckets and a holding container when you collect your sap at the end of the tap. A few large pans will be necessary as well for the top of the stove. To measure the progress of your syrup, you will need a candy thermometer.

You will also need a filter of some kind or a pan that will filter out any particulates before you bottle up your very own homemade syrup. And for the end result, you should have a glass bottle available.

Tapping Your TreesMaple 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.
Turning Sap into Syrup
When you have a large quantity of sap, it's time to cook it up to make syrup. This is achieved by boiling up the sap in a large pan on a stove at home so long as you have a stove vent van and a dehumidifier in place. When you boil sap, it can produce a lot of moisture in the air. Professionals like to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to prevent the moisture build up in their homes. Or you can also use an evaporator that is hobby sized. Whatever method works best for your home and needs is the one you should choose.

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.

Maple LeafOr 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.

The Joy of Syrup

No matter why you choose to make your own maple syrup, there's something special about doing it yourself. Knowing that you not only picked the trees from where the sap flowed and knowing that you boiled off the water that helped the tree grow, each bottle of syrup becomes a genuine fruit of your labor.

Whether you simply want to try out this method of making your own maple syrup once or you want to start a family tradition, making syrup has never been easier or sweeter.