We haven’t tapped a tree for a couple years now, but had great success in the past with a silver maple at our old house. This year we decided to tap the big silver maple out front and are looking forward to a tasty treat in a few weeks. This year has been a rough year for sap flow as far as I can tell with a late start because it was so cold so late, and impending budding very soon. So far we have about 5L of sap and hope we get a good few more days before the trees bud and the flavour goes south.
I’ll post the initial steps up to collecting and storing your sap here, and hopefully write a later post about boiling down and bottling our syrup if we get enough of a yield this year. This “tutorial” is for the small homeowner operation of a tree or two.
Maple Syrup Making: Part 1
Bucket with lid
Sterilized/clean containers for sap storage and fridge for storage prior to boiling.
Sterilized/clean containers for syrup storage (for part 2)
You can technically tap any tree, but the most common trees to tap are maples, followed distantly by others like birch and walnut in our region. Sugar maple is the fan favourite with the highest sugar content on their sap, but silver maple is a close second. We only have silver maples on our property, so that’s what we use.
When deciding to tap your tree please consider the age and health of your tree. Also, check the diameter of your tree and look up the recommended dimensions for your tree species to determine the number of taps you should place, if any. Check out Tapmytrees.com for more information.
Once you have selected an appropriate tree for tapping, you’ll need to wait for the right time. This is generally sometime between mid-March and early-April in our area when the temperature at night is less than 0 Celsius, and the daytime temperature above 0 Celsius. I’d recommend check out the commercial operations in your area to see what their timing is.
You’ll then need to drill a hole for the spigot. You’ll want to choose a location ideally on the south side of your tree at an easily accessible height.
Using a drill bit sized for your spigot drill a hole 2 inches deep at a slight incline so the sap can drop down into your bucket.
Hammer spigot into the hole you just made and attach the bucket.
Every day go check your bucket. As it fills you will want to empty it into a storage container until you’re ready to boil it down. I like to use a 4L water bottle that’s been sterilized amd, using a funnel, pour my collected sap into the bottle at the tree side. I can then immediately reattach my bucket to the tree so I don’t miss any precious sap, and carry my capped bottle back to the house. I store my bottles in the fridge until I’m ready to boil which I usually after about a week of collection as I only tap one tree.
Stay tuned for part deux where I show how we get the super watery sap down to delicious syrup.