We arrived to our new home in Western New York near the end of January. The first weekend we were here a few neighbors came over to welcome us to the neighborhood. It was incredibly kind and definitely gave Fred and I an overwhelming sense of welcoming into our new neighborhood and new home. Once again reaffirming our decision to move. During many of these initial greetings a couple of neighbors mentioned that they loved the maple tree on our property. The obvious conclusion was to tap the maple tree.
I decided to google how to make syrup from a maple tree. My only prior experience of maple sugaring is that episode of Curious George where George learns how to make syrup. I assumed Curious George probably left out some details. Surprisingly, it was actually really easy, fun, and a great activity to keep myself and the boys active during the late winter.
There is a ton of information online about maple sugaring at home, but the greatest resource I found I got over at Tap My Trees. All the info you need is on their website, but I prefer to have something on hand so I was super excited that they included this short book with their kit.
This is the kit I got!! It had everything I needed, buckets, lids, spiles, hooks, cheesecloth, and the correct size drill bit. I went with this kit, but there are a lot of other options online. Tap my trees also have kits with plastic buckets, if you want to save a few bucks. Also, an alternative is to just buy their spiles, because they are awesome, and just hang anything you have laying around to it, like cleaned out milk jugs or any other food safe plastic container.
Fred did the drilling, because frankly he is much more confident drilling and I didn’t want to mess it up. The tap holes, if doing more than one, should be spaced around the circumference of the tree. The height should just be a height that is convenient for you. Ideally, the tap hole should be on the south side of the tree or above a large root. You need to drill at a slight upward angle to help facilitate the downward flow of the sap from the hole. You only want to drill in about 2 inches, so put a piece of tape around your drill bit, so you don’t hurt your tree.
Before we even hung the spiles, sap was flowing! This is a shot I got shortly after we got everything hung. Sap flows in early-February and March. Basically whenever the daytime temperatures get above freezing and the nighttime temperatures fall below. That pressure is what causes the sap to be pushed down into the trees root system. The weekend we tapped was in the 50’s so this basically was a crazy time to decide to tap our tree. We have a large mature maple tree so we hung three buckets. By the next morning they were all full!
We had no idea how much sap we would get, but total during the whole season we ended up with about 40 gallons of sap. To put this in perspective for you, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. So basically, we boiled sap for about two weeks this winter. I learned a lot about this process while doing it. Boiling takes a long time and it is very steamy, so unless you have a strong exhaust fan be prepared for either a lot of steam inside the house or just doing this outside. We boiled small batches inside, with a window open and our exhaust fan on high and it was fine.
And finally the finished product!!! This was from the very first boil. Two tiny jars from an entire day of boiling. Pretty amazing. As the season went on the sap produced darker and richer syrup, which is my favorite. So if you are wondering what we are doing right now, we are probably eating french toast!