1. Determine when your weather is right. The days have to be above freezing and the nights below freezing. This is what causes sap to flow!
2. Tap trees! We use 5/8" PVC pipe as taps. You drill into the tree until the wood shavings are wet (about 1/2-1") and pound your tap into the hole. Then stick a nail in the tree and hang your bucket! You want to make sure to not drill too near a scar from previous years tapping. Sugar maples are the best, but you can tap any maples. Alternatively, you could tap hickory or cherry tree for other kinds of syrup.
|This is a 5 gal bucket for size comparison.|
4. Boil the sap. We have a 31 gallon stainless steel pan set up on a cinder block stove. The old syrup stove got run over and rusted out, so we had to improvise this year. Truthfully, we need a bigger pan. This year we are getting by, but in years past, Jeremiah has tapped over 100 trees and then there is way too much sap for a small pan like this one. When you are boiling the sap, you want to make sure to skim off any debris or foam and to not let the level get too low. However, you don't want to add and add and add sap, or you will end up with a very dark and strong syrup. SO...
5. Finish it off inside. When the syrup starts to get amber in color or gets too low in the pan, transfer it to small pots. We have some on the wood stove and some on the electric stove. You want to cook it until it is a dark amber, tastes like syrup, and begins to coat a spoon. Or, 230F for the more technical people.
6. Enjoy your homemade syrup! This is some we finished yesterday and by this morning, Jeremiah's younger brothers had already got into it! For the trees we use in our location, it is about 35-40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup.
We have no idea how much finished syrup we will have this year, but we hope to pick up production next year! This year hasn't been the best weather either, so hopefully it will be better next year.