It’s that time of year again that I really look forward to, because its a clue that spring is around the corner…tapping our Maples for syrup! At the old place before we moved we had one, gigantic Sugar Maple. Now we have four itty bitty Norway Maples. So I’m very curious to see how that affects both the quality and quantity of our maple syrup making.
If you’ve never made syrup before or seen it done, then you don’t know that it is the easiest, least expensive, homemade, DIY project you could possible take on. Thereby making it the most rewarding considering that syrup is also one of the most tastiest and nutritious food staples! If you would like to read last years post see The Maple Staple.
This year I plan on sharing a little more insight on how to go about doing this yourself. First of all, you can make syrup even if you do not have maple trees! Of course sugar maples make the best and most syrup, but besides any kind of maple tree (maple, silver, red, boxelder, and many others) you can also tap walnut, hickory, sycamore and sweet birch trees. If you are anything like me, after finding this out you immediately went outside to study all of your trees to determine their type. lol Well, I was excited, and no, I actually didn’t know that I had two Boxelders and an Elm in addition to the Norway Maples in my own backyard!
After you’ve determined if you have any trees that are able to be tapped, then you have to measure them. The trunks have to be at least 18 inches around. If they are 27 inches in diameter or more then you can tap them up to three times! As much sap as it takes to make syrup, you are definitely going to want to do this if at all possible!
Now find north and don’t tap the north sides of the trees. I don’t know why. Maybe its like the old wives tale, “A bed facing north and south brings misfortune”. All I know is I’m not about to test it. I tap on the sunniest side of the tree that is anything but the north side, and place my bed facing east. JK about the bed thing. lol
Anyway, we tap at a comfortable height with a short piece of copper pipe. Kenney predrills the hole just slightly smaller than the pipe itself. Then we tap the pipe in with a hammer about 1 1/2 inches deep. This year he added a copper t to each of the pipes so that the bucket could hang directly from the pipe. For the second and thirds taps on the trees, clamp one end of the tubing over the pipe and let the other end fall into the same 5 gallon bucket. We used empty dry wall compound buckets because these are free and plentiful when you are married to a contractor!
All of this setup is relatively easy and well worth it. After this your only job is empting the bucket into your largest pan for boiling. You don’t have to add anything to it or even stir it constantly (at least in the beginning). Just keep it at a rolling boil until the clear watery portion of the sap boils away and leaves a creamy brown syrup in the bottom of the pan. As it gets thicker and reaches its nearly done point you will want to watch and stir it constantly. You don’t want it to burn and ruin right at the end! ;)
It never ceases to amaze me that gallons of what looks and tastes like clear, sweet water turns into only a pint or quart of rich, creamy brown syrup!
I use syrup in everything from pancakes and breakfast foods to sweetening foods like oatmeal, cookies, and baked beans. It also saves on the amount of sugar that I buy since I substitute it in all of my recipes calling for brown sugar! When you are feeding six, you cut corners anywhere possible! lol
Now that we have done the tapping ourselves, I have to add that the sap from the boxelder doesn’t smell very appetizing. We hope it tastes better than it smells! :)
April 17, 2014 – I would like to add some notes about our results this year. Sadly, even with 9 taps we had less syrup than last year with 2 taps! The Norway Maples took so much more sap than our old Sugar Maple to make the same quart jar of syrup!
As for the boxelder, we won’t tap the boxelder next year at all. One wasn’t enough to produce anything worth keeping, and I’m not willing to combine the saps.
What we did collect is very yummy and we enjoy learning new things. So overall, it was another good experience. You live and learn! :)