It’s March! And it’s mud season. The temperatures are warming, the sun is stronger, and spring officially starts this month.

The first harvest of the year is maple sap! In Late February or early March, when the night temperatures are below freezing, and the day time temperatures are above 32 degrees, it’s time to put in the maple taps.

Home Grown Maple Syrup 

Maple trees getting tapped for syrup

Supplies:

  • 5/16 or 7/16 inch sap spouts with hooks
  • 5 gallon white buckets or gallon plastic jugs
  • drill bit to match size of your spouts
  • hammer
  • large wide pot
  • grill or open fire outside
  • filter
  • canning jars

Let’s get started—

  • Find healthy looking sugar or red maples, at least 12 inch diameter
  • 1 tap in 12 – 18 inch diameter trees
  • 2 taps at least 6 inches apart in trees greater than 18 inch diameter
  • Drill hole about 2 inches deep (a little less for smaller trees, a little more for larger trees), at an upward angle for sap flow
  • Clean out any wood shavings from hole
  • Place end of spout into hook, then gently tap spout with hammer to set in the tree
  • Hang bucket or plastic jug

You can put in 6 taps, or 50, depending on how much time you have and how much syrup you hope to get. There’s a 40:1 ratio of maple sap to maple syrup. That means 10 gallons of sap boils down to 1 quart of syrup, so you want to collect a lot before you spend several hours boiling a batch down. Sap is clear, and flows at different rates in different trees and with different temperatures.

Close up of maple tap

From tree to buckets:

  • Check taps every day and empty sap into clean storage bucket.
  • Keep sap in clean food grade buckets in a cold place, 38 degrees or colder.
  • Don’t store more than a few days before you boil it down.
  • It’s easier to boil sap outside if you have more than an gallon or two because it takes several hours and gets too hot and humid in the house.

From buckets to syrup, boiling day:

  • When you’re ready for a day of boiling sap, set up your grill or get a wood fire going until you have a good bed of coals, in an outdoor pit.
  • With a thick bed of coals (if you have a wood fire) put pot over the coals, and pour sap to about 3/4 full.
  • If you can find one, a large stainless steel tray with four inch sides makes a large surface area for greater efficiency in boiling off the sap.
  • Bring sap to a boil (212 degrees), and as sap boils off, add more sap, always keeping the sap boiling, with the temperature between 212 and 218 degrees.
  • After several hours, when sap looks caramel-colored, bring it in, place in smaller pot and finish off, boiling and watching closely as it thickens a little. Be careful not to burn the syrup!! ( A lot of work gone for nothing!)
  • Filter syrup through clean cloth to eliminate any grit, into sterilized canning jar.
  • Store in cool dry place
  • Refrigerate once opened.